Chapter 25  - Key Conflicts'


        "As I'm sure you've all been made aware now," the president started, "the situation we'd all been dreading has occurred." The stony silence of the Antioch council room met the end of his sentence. "We've known for some time of their eugenics projects, and attempting to discover just what their aim was in all of this. As you know, we track each and every person who emerges from their project. Unfortunately, Heaven seems to be acting before we've caught up with their plans." He paused as if for dramatic effect. "They've taken a boy."

        Murmurs began in the room, and Mr. Parker noticed more than a few people look in his direction. Evidently some of them knew the boy who was taken was his son.

        The president cleared his throat. "When this council was called, we were under the impression that whatever great plan they had was being set into motion. However, in the time since, none of the other subjects have been abducted."

        "Who is the boy?" one of the members asked through his microphone. "Why just him then?"


        Mr. Parker felt the eyes on him again, and he cleared his throat. "H-he's my son."

        "The Parker's again," someone in the room muttered.

        Mr. Parker searched for the owner of the voice but couldn't find him.

        "Is it known why he was taken?" Someone else asked.

        Again, Mr. Parker felt the eyes turn to him. "It isn't." He paused, and then continued. "He's not yet nineteen."

        He heard the same voice again. "First one son... then his daughter... now his third child?"

        Mr. Parker spied the owner across the circular table from him. Barry Kelman. He should have guessed. They'd never got on well... ever since Mr. Parker was admitted to the council of Antioch when it became apparent his children were part of the project. "Do you have something to add Mr. Kelman?" He asked.

        Kelman narrowed his eyes at him, but couldn't very well blow him off now that the entire room was looking at him. "I ah... I was just commenting on the amount of attention your family seems to receive from Heaven..." He waited, but the attention wasn't diverted from him. "I mean... there was your first son... Marcus, I believe was his name. I understand he attracted a great deal of attention from Heaven before he killed himself."

        Mr. Parker balled his fists and tried to control his temper. How dare he talk about his son like that?

        Kelman continued. "Then of course, there was Sara. She managed to cause an angel to fall from grace-- the first time since The War, before going off and setting up her little agency to fight both sides. And now your third child Jason has been abducted? It's enough to raise more than a few eyebrows. One might think... that you'd made some sort of deal with Heaven." The accusation was thick on his voice.

        The attention was quite suddenly flung back in Mr. Parker's face.

        "Look, no-one's questioning anyone's loyalty here," the president started.

        Kelman sneered. "Well maybe we ought to."

        An aide ran up and whispered something to the president. He nodded and muttered something back, before turning again to the council. "The investigation team has finished inspecting the site of abduction." He pressed a button on his desk and the wall behind him slid apart to display a large screen. It flickered to life and as the gathering swivelled in their chairs to watch the screen, the man on the other side looked down at them.

        "Mr. President, we've inspected the site and..." He looked slightly unsure.

        "Well what is it?" The president insisted.

        "It wasn't Heaven that abducted the subject." He swallowed hard. "It was Hell."

        A stunned silence fell over the council room. Eventually the president thanked the man and the screen switched off. He looked at Mr. Parker. "It would seem you're off the hook."

        But Mr. Parker wasn't listening. As long as it had been Heaven that abducted his son, there was the chance that Matt could rescue him and bring him home safely... but now... He stared of into blank space.




        Matt trudged through the snow, slowly making his way towards the doors high up on the mountain. Shards of ice had collected on his wings and they jingled with every step he took. The wind howled voraciously, as if it were an actual voice, warning him to keep away. He staunchly ignored it.



        Sara and Scott pulled into the Agency headquarters and found the place bustling with activity. She stepped out of her car and looked around wondering what was going on. Her secretary who'd been watching for her return hurried up to her.

        "Ma’am, shortly after we received your call to prepare to move, reports started flowing in from all of our agents of happenings around the world." The secretary informed her. "Every single angel has returned to Heaven, every Demon or fallen angel has retreated to Hell, and we've received word that a secretive agency calling itself 'Antioch' has called an emergency council-- your father included."

        Sara looked around and gestured at the commotion in the compound. "What's all this then?"
"That would be my doing."

        Sara and Scott both turned to find her cloaked companion waiting behind them.

        "I felt it necessary that your people be ready to move out should the fighting spill into this world."


        The same sexless voice as always informed them.

        "What fighting? What's happening?" Sara demanded.

        "You'll see in due course. In the meantime, I suggest you contact Antioch at this number," the person said, handing her a slip of paper with digits burnt into it, "and inform them of what your agents have discovered, in case they don't already know."

        "Please tell me what's happening! Where is my brother?" She begged.

        Her old companion turned its hood to face her. "More than one prophecy may well be fulfilled this day. And if so... a great change will be coming. One that I doubt anyone will have foreseen." They turned to walk away, calling over their shoulder. "Remember to contact Antioch. I'll be doing so myself shortly." The cloak whipped into a spinning whirlwind of cloth and light, before disappearing and leaving the trio stunned.



        Matthew staggered in the snow, leaning in against the biting wind. The great carved doors loomed ahead through flurries of snow. Approaching them, he pushed with his hand on the cut wood. They resisted. He dug his feet into the ground and heaved his shoulder at the portal. Icicles rained down on him from above, shaken loose by the impact. He strained his legs and forced his weight against the door. There was a loud crack as the ice that had formed between the doors splintered and they parted inwards. He quickly slipped inside and again used his weight to close the massive doors.

        He stood in the darkness, breathing raggedly before shaking his wings and clothes, sending a hail of ice shards flying outwards. A faint incandescence lit the hall he stood in and it took him a few minutes to locate the source. It was the crystal key necklace Jason had given him. It glowed with a pale inner light. He clutched it to his chest and began the long journey down into the mountain.


        Jason paced along side Mephistopheles as they wandered through the long corridors. He noticed that the hall of revelries he'd passed through earlier was no longer there. Everything seemed to be constantly shifting. He wondered briefly how anyone found their way around the seemingly endless palace. He looked at his dark companion, waiting for the flicker of power to reveal what the fallen angel really looked like.

        Mephistopheles raised his eyebrow and turned his head to fix his eyes on Jason. "You already know what I look like."

        Jason looked bashful. "Sorry." He hadn't meant to be so obvious. "I just uh... well..."

        Mephistopheles rolled his eyes. "Let me guess, Luce and B-boy were showing off their prowess by flashing you with power, right?" He didn't wait for Jason to answer. "I, unlike them, don't feel the need to show off my true form to every person I encounter. I attract less attention if I don't go parading about announcing to the world what I am."

        But Jason was still curious, "So why do they look so different?"

        The fallen angel sighed, knowing he was in for a long explanation. "Lucifer is a first generation angel. All of the first generation-- the Ancients, had six pairs of wings. For some reason, none of the following generations did. They were each blessed with the horns of different animals. Gabriel happened to have a pair of golden antlers. The Luce got some silver twisting ones." He paused to check if Jason was following this, "Beelzebub was from third generation. They were infused with the spirit of war that was heavy in Heaven at the time, thus the extra arms for holding weapons. Beelzebub was a prize specimen, by far the largest and most fearsome of the warriors born then. He chose ultimately to side with Lucifer-- and I think secretly he's regretted it ever since. His wings are just big because they need to be to lift his heavy ass off the ground."

        "You said Lucifer had silver horns?" The one's Jason had seen had looked pretty black to him.

        Mephistopheles nodded. "I was just getting to that. When we-- by 'we' I mean those who rebelled and sided with Lucifer. On a side note, he simplified the situation a bit. We actually wanted to do a lot more than just let the dead into Heaven, including setting up a genuine democracy, not just a democratic republic. Anyway though, as I was saying, when we were cast out of heaven, we fell through the atmosphere of this world and our wings were blackened by the fires that covered us as we fell. Our skins healed, but part of Heaven's curse on us was our blackened wings. We've come to wear them as a symbol of pride." His voice took on a frenetic tone. "We fought for what we believed in. We may have lost, but we still fought, and we will bring that fight back to Heaven some day." He took a breath and calmed himself.

        Jason remembered the one time he'd seen the fallen angel in true form, clad in black leather pants with his velvety black wings beating in the hot air over the caldera. "What generation are you from? You only have one pair of wings and no extra arms..." His speech slowed to a stop as he noticed the look on Mephistopheles' face.

        "I was from the second generation of angels. Before the war..." The fallen angel choked; clearly the memory of such a time was still painful to him. "Before the war I had three pairs of wings... glisteningly white and the softest in Heaven!" His face set itself into a dark, stern look. "I was a general in the war, but I was never much of a fighter, more of a spell wielder and tactician. I could manipulate the rules of reality to my will. I was unarmed when I was attacked by Uriel, a third generation angel on the other side." His words were almost spitting now. "He hacked four of my wings off, tearing them from my body, before Beelzebub reached us and severed his head. After our fall, it was too painful to see the blackened stubs sticking out of my back, so I had Beelzebub rip them out at the sockets."

        "I-I'm sorry..." Jason said quietly. He felt suddenly very uncomfortable for raising the subject. It was clearly still a sore spot for his companion.

        Mephistopheles turned his palms upwards in gesture. "Ah well, shit happens."

        Jason was so thankful that he'd finally found himself a fount of knowledge that was actually willing to answer his questions; he couldn't resist asking another. "Matt told me once that the ruling council of Heaven disappears every now and then. He said that one day Heaven woke up and the Ancients had vanished without a trace... How come Lucifer didn't vanish with them?"

        The fallen angel shrugged. "Haven't got a clue there, sorry. We heard about that though... Had we all stayed in Heaven, I'm sure we would all have long since disappeared too. I left... companions... in Heaven that have simply vanished without so much as a good-bye."

        The way he said 'companions' seemed to indicate some sort of intimacy, so Jason felt it was best to leave yet another tender subject alone. "Lucifer kept calling me Azreal back there. I feel like I have another presence in my body right now... If something's happening with me..." he paused, uncertainly. "If I'm going to turn into him... I want to know, who was he? What was he like?"

Mephistopheles looked at him in surprise. "Who said anything about turning into anything? Lucifer is working off some old prophecy right now, trying to guess who you are. To be honest, I'm still not totally sure if he's right. You could just be the next evolutionary leap in mankind. We'll see eventually I suppose. At any rate; Azreal. Azreal was one of the Ancients. He refused to take sides in the war, but vanished during the course of the final battle. If Heaven ever figured out what happened to him, they never shared that little bit of information with us. But then again, why would they." He looked up suddenly at the end of the hall that faced them. "Sorry, I haven't been thinking about where we were going. I'll get us out in a minute." He kept walking towards the wall ahead.

        Jason looked along the sides of the hall for a door. He turned and looked backwards down the hall they'd come through. It seemed to run for as far as he could see. He was just about to suggest they go back and find a turning, when he spied a wooden door in the wall ahead. It most definitely had not been there a moment ago. The fallen angel opened the door and stepped through into another room with several doors. Jason quickly followed his lead.



        The Antioch enclave was still deep in session when the President's emergency phone started ringing with a deafening tone. All activity in the room immediately ceased. All eyes were on the President as he reached out and lifted the receiver. Never before had anyone rung that number. The President gave emergency orders from that phone, but no one ever rang it. Few of the council members even knew the number.

        "Hello?" He said skeptically into the phone. He listened closely to the caller for a few moments before asking them to wait a moment as he pressed several buttons on the phone. He hung up as it switched onto speakerphone and the video screen behind him switched on for a video conference. Mr. Parker took one look at the face on the screen before he buried his face in his hands and groaned.

        "Council of Antioch," Sara said, "My name is Sara Parker, and I represent the independent faction of the People's Coalition of Defense. We are in opposition of both Heaven and Hell in order to defend the people of this earth from peter-natural forces."

        Mr. Parker felt the eyes bearing down on him again. Any sympathy he had gained by having his son abducted by Hell was instantly lost as he became suspect of giving his daughter confidential contacts within the council.

        The President cleared his throat loudly. "Mrs. Parker, exactly how did you gleam the information of this number and this organization?"

        Sara frowned impatiently. She could hardly believe she was being asked such menial questions when events of such great magnitude were taking place. "Not that it matters, but I was given the information by a person of considerable power who has long assisted my efforts." Her eyes flicked to her father in the room, and Mr. Parker suddenly realized it was a two-way feed. "And no, it wasn't my father," She assured them. "I only recently became aware of his involvement in your organization, although apparently he has for some time known of mine."

        The President shot a look at Mr. Parker, which he couldn’t quite make out from, across the room. He groaned inwardly all the same. Nothing seemed to be going well this Christmas.

        "At any rate," Sara continued. "I'm contacting you on a matter of urgency. My informant has described to me what you do and I felt it might be useful for both our organizations if we were to cooperate. As I'm sure you're aware, my brother has been abducted by the forces of Hell. What you may not be aware of is that both Heaven and Hell seem to have called an immediate recall of their forces. For the first time in many centuries, the earth has been left to it's own denizens."

        There were mutterings and surprised looks from all around the council. The President looked up and the large screen and Sara's head. "Exactly why is this such an urgent matter? It seems to me that this is very good news for us. We've finally been left alone to deal with matters ourselves."

        "I thought so too at first." Sara said, shaking her head. "But my informant tells me that it is only a temporary retreat. Something is coming which has not been seen in any of the three planes since the Great War."

        Kelman suddenly scoffed. "This is ridiculous! We're actually listening to this up-start of a girl? 'The People's Coalition of Defense', how absurd! And how many of you are there, hm? Is your little group feeling brave now that they have their hands on weapons?"

        Sara glared harshly at him. "The Coalition is a multi-billion dollar organization. We have groups in sixty different countries and our forces total in the millions. I assure you, we are no up-starts."

        A small wave of amazement washed over the room. No one seemed quite to understand how the full extent of the organization had escaped their notice for so long. It seemed baffling that they could have grown so large without drawing more attention,

        The President shot a reproving look at Mr. Kelman. "We thank you for this information Mrs. Parker. I admit we were not yet aware of this retreat of forces from our world." He paused and looked to his aide quickly, and then back to the screen. "May I ask where it is your information is coming from? We would like to ascertain how credible your source is..."

        Sara looked slightly uneasy at this request. She hesitated before answering truthfully. "I don't know."

        The hall burst into an up-roar and Kelman sat smugly in his seat.

        Sara had to shout to be heard over the noise, "He--she-- IT comes to me when it pleases. IT has never shown or told me who or what it is, but believe me it is a being of considerable power and--"

        Kelman stood from his seat and called across the room. "Tell your daughter to go home and stop playing games Mr. Parker," he sneered. "She can come talk to us again when she has something real to show us and--"

        He was interrupted by a whirlwind of light that burst into life in the center of the council room. Wind blew papers from desks, which no one moved to save. Light, air and cloth collected into a corporeal form.

        "I can assure you Mr. Kelman, I am very real indeed." Sara's companion said, their voice thundering in the room.



        Drew sat by Jason's mother, rubbing her leg gently, comfortingly. She'd only just stopped crying a moment ago. He looked around at the kitchen and realized that none of them had hade anything to eat since that morning. He stood slowly, asking kindly, but clearly not prepared to take 'no' for an answer, "How about some beans and toast? My mom always said that it's easier to deal with a crisis on a full stomach."

        She smiled her thanks wanly as he set about finding a saucepan and some bread. He emptied a can of beans into the saucepan and put four slices of bread in the toaster. He pretended not to notice as she hurriedly wiped her face with tissues, cleaning the smeared make-up. He'd just taken the toast out and put it on two plates for them and was reaching for the saucepan when Elizabeth screamed a warning. On instinct, he grabbed the pot by the handle and swung it. It connected with something hard with a clang and the beans inside sloshed over the edge, covering the face of his attacker. Drew staggered backwards, turning to face the intruder, his arm ringing with vibrations from the impact.

        Elizabeth reached under the table and pulled the Smith Wesson from the holster she kept attached to the underside of the cherry wood table. Her chair banged to the ground as she spun and stood, aiming the gun at the attacker. "Get away from him Drew!" she ordered, taking off the safety catch,

        The attacker brought his hand to his face to smear away the beans that coated his features. With his other hand, Damien reached out to grab Drew by the arm. Elizabeth opened fire and the first bullet blasted a hole straight through Damien's jaw. She pulled the trigger again and again, blasting a hole through his eye and forehead. She emptied the rest of the barrel into his chest.

        Her ragged breathing filled the sudden silence of the kitchen, her arms trembling. Drew staggered away from Damien, sickened by the holes that slowly oozed oil and black ichors.

        But the corpse didn't fall.

        On the contrary, Damien's features started to remold themselves. His skin looked like it was crawling with minute black crabs. They flowed to his wounds, rebuilding his body to horrid perfection. He turned his head and sneered at Elizabeth. Like a black blur, he raced towards her, slamming his palm into her chest before she could even register he had moved. Her body flew through the air, crashing through the French windows to land heavily in the snow. With another flash, he had seized Drew by the arm. "Let's go say hi to Jason." He whispered maliciously as the black flames shot up around them. Drew never even had a chance to scream before they were gone.



        Jason came to a stop behind Mephistopheles, the fallen angel's hand outstretched to grasp the handle of yet another door. He had stopped and now tilted his head at an angle as if listening to some distant noise. Jason perked his ears and tried to pick up any sound. He gave up after several seconds of silence.

        But once he'd stopped concentrating on listening, a soft voice came into hearing. It seemed to be speaking to Mephistopheles. "The time is right. Proceed as we planned and then send the boy on his way."
Mephistopheles nodded once. He turned to Jason, realizing he'd overheard the projected conversation.


        "Wait here, I'll just be a moment." He stepped away from Jason and then thought better of it. "When I say 'here,' I mean here. As in this spot. Don't take a single step. Don't leave from this position. And whatever you do don't sneeze."


The fallen angel grinned cheekily. "Ok, so that last part was a joke, but I was serious about the rest. Don't move." And before Jason could argue or ask any questions his image collapsed like a screen with the plug suddenly pulled.

Jason stood rigidly, not daring to move. His nose started to tingle gently as if he needed to sneeze.



        Matt jogged down the hall, using the key as a light. The faint illumination cast enough light to make out the carvings on the walls on either side as they scrolled past. He saw carvings of angels battling one another and demons rising out of the earth. He realized he was witnessing a depiction of the Great War. He slowed his pace and came to a stop as he neared a bend in the tunnel. He pressed himself against the wall and listened tentatively for voices.

        A mushroom cloud of flames burst up next to him, startling him. Mephistopheles stepped out of the flames quickly and snatched the necklace from around Matt's neck. He hopped backwards a few paces, holding the key by a chain. "Sorry Matt buddy, but I need to borrow this. Jason needs it more than you right now."

        Matt didn't even have time to react before the fallen angel's image collapsed, leaving him once more alone in the tunnel. His confusion echoed softly in the darkness, "Ummmm..... Okaaaay." He blinked his eyes a few times trying to find any source of light. When that failed, he raised his hand and tried so summon up a soft glowing light. Tiny motes twinkled in his palm, but they fizzled out and died quickly. "Guess I'll have to do this the old fashioned way." He muttered to himself as he began groping along the tunnel wall, hoping that it wasn't too much further to go. He'd moved along for about five minutes before he realized that while his own powers of transportation didn't seem to work here, Mephistopheles' had. He found himself wondering how many other people knew of this place-- more specifically, how many other fallen angels and demons knew of it.


        With his telltale mushroom cloud of flame, Mephistopheles stood besides Jason once more. He handed him they necklace without a word.

"Where did you get this?" Jason asked urgently. "I gave this to Matt! How did you get it?"

Mephistopheles shrugged nonchalantly. "You need it more than he does right now. Come along." He pushed open the door and stepped through, Jason following him, still slightly miffed that the fallen angel had managed to get hold of his gift to Matt.

Hot air blasted into his face as they stepped out onto a plateau overlooking the caldera of fire. The long flight of stairs he'd arrived on were nowhere to be seen, just this small platform that they stood on, and Damien. Kneeling on the ground before him was a trembling and bruised Drew. He looked to Jason pleadingly, one eye puffed up and a trickle of blood still flowing from a broken nose.

Jason stopped dead in his tracks.


        The entire council of Antioch sat in stunned awe of the figure that had appeared before them. Even Sara seemed surprised by her compatriot's appearance. The cloak fell away from the figure and drifted to the ground with a gentle sigh. The figure that stood before them flickered with images, it's form flashing through bodies in seconds but never stopping on one. The white light that welled up from seemingly inside the being poured out of it's eyes and mouth and the very pours of it's skin so that it lit the room starkly.

        "Council of Antioch," it spoke in chorus of thousands of voices rolled into one. "The boy you are all so interested in has been taken by Hell in order to bring about the completion of several ancient prophecies one of my predecessors set into motion. There is no way now to prevent the course your world has been set upon. The war that was started in Heaven before the dawn of life itself is about to burst forth again. Already I have instructed the People's Coalition of Defense to mobilize worldwide in preparation should the fighting spill over into this world. I suggest you do the same. While I understand your organization is not as wide reaching as that from which you took your name, I know that you have connections within governments across the globe. I suggest that you contact them and warn them to prepare to combat any number of emergencies, which may emerge through this conflict. I myself am unable to intervene in the events that shall be played out. I have given you fair warning of what is to come, your fate is now in your own hands, and those of Jason Parker." The swirling whirlwind of light and air enveloped the being again, growing in intensity until the council members were forced to shield their eyes from the brightness of the light. With a final flash and a crack of deafening proportions, the disruption disappeared, leaving the room in utter silence.

        The president turned slowly back to the screen where Sara's face still appeared. "Th-thank you for this Mrs. Parker. We will contact what governments will listen and instruct them to cooperate with your own forces as well as ours." He swallowed hard and looked to Mr. Parker. With a tremble in his voice he spoke directly to him, "I can only hope that your son can meet the expectations set of him..."
"You, me and the rest of the world too," Mr. Parker said under his breath.



        Matthew peered around the tenth bend in the tunnel he had come to and struggled to hold down a gasp at the sight that confronted him. In the middle of the massive vault, twelve towering stone monoliths ringed a chasm deep into the ground. A glowing gem was set deep into the trunk of each of the columns, pulsing and glowing each with their own distinct light. Winding its way around the central circle ran a labyrinth of cold white fire. It seared into his vision to look directly at it. The pattern seemed intensely familiar to Matthew. It struck him suddenly that it was the same pattern as the one that lay in Heaven, used for attuning the minds of fledgling angels. Only this once dwarfed that several times over. The size of the room was so overpowering that it took him several moments of staring to realize exactly what hung over the chasm. A cage of gleaming black metal hovered in the air over the yawning pit. His angelic eyes honed in on the face of the man that peaceably sat cross-legged in the middle of the cage.
"Dad?" He breathed, not daring to believe what his eyes were telling him.



        Jason faced Damien and Drew across the plateau. Jason's arm snapped out and caught Mephistopheles by the throat, raising him up and slamming his body hard against the stone wall behind them. "Was this your doing?" Jason snarled, his voice growing deeper and louder. "Was this all part of your plan?"

        Mephistopheles struggled with both his hands against Jason's one around his throat. He looked into the boy's face and his pulse quickened. Jason's right eye clouded over with blackness as he watched, the hair of his eyebrow and lashes darkening to a pitch black. "I swear to you," he choked, "Damien is acting of his own accord! I had nothing to do with this!"

        Jason tossed him to the ground where he slid, coming to a stop perilously close to the edge of the cliff. He rounded on Damien, who still clutched at the boy kneeling before him.

        "Not another step Jason!" Damien called out. "You have something I want, and I have something you want."

Jason held his ground, his nostrils flaring in anger. "Let him go Damien! I'll give you what you want, just let him go."

        The fallen angel shook his head, sneering at him. "I'm not falling for that again Jason. Hand over Heaven's Key and I'll give you the boy."

        Jason looked down at the necklace he still clutched in his hand. He held it up and let it dangle by the chain. The quartz key gleamed in the light of the fires from below.

        "Don't give it to him Jason!" Mephistopheles shouted from where he lay on the ground, a dark bruise forming on his throat.

        Jason looked between Damien and the key. "Why do you want it so badly? It's just a crystal..."

        Damien grabbed Drew by the collar and tugged him backwards towards the ledge. "Don't fuck with me Jason. Give it to me or I'll kill him."

        Jason narrowed his eyes. "And if I give you the key, what's to stop you from taking it and killing him anyway?"

        The fallen angel's mouth twisted into a hideous smile-- more of a grimace than anything else. "I guess you'll just have to trust me..."

        Jason let out a mocking laugh. "Ha! You're the last person in the world I'd trust you bastard." He walked slowly over to the edge of the cliff and extended his arm over the edge. "If you kill him, I'll destroy the Key. And then what will you do?"

        Damien looked uneasily at Jason's clenched fist.

        Jason knew he now had the upper hand. "Let him go Damien."

        He was starting to perspire. This was not at ALL how things had been meant to go for him. Damien ground his teeth together. "NO!" He shouted his defiance. "Give me the fucking key!"

        Jason looked at him, standing there, his best friend kneeling before the fallen angel, eyes looking at Jason pleadingly. There was only one way to call Damien's bluff. "Fuck. You." Jason spat. He opened his fist and the key tumbled. Jason saw what happened next almost in slow motion.

        Mephistopheles shouted as he saw the key start to drop.

        Damien raised his arm to his shoulder and a long blade grew out of his wrist. He slammed his fist downwards through Drew's back. They boy arched as it pierced through his back and emerged from his chest. Damien withdrew the blade and Drew gave a slight gasp for breath as blood gushed out of his wound. His eyes fixed on Jason and then his tumbled sideways onto the ground, a blood pool quickly growing around him. Damien made to lunge over the edge of the cliff after the key when he realized what had happened.

        They key dangled over the edge of the precipice, suspended by the chain Jason still clutched.