The coffin is empty. The small church filled with the family and friends of Mark and Anne Talbot. This is how wars end, with a young widow and outbursts of tears. It has been a long struggle, this war between the fallen angel, Semjaza/Mesphisto and a demiurge who was also simply a man. What sayeth a man when he is chosen by God to do battle? What price is too steep for simple victory? The widow sitting in the front row of the church would answer the life of her husband. Anne Harris-Talbot is dressed in black. The two men sitting next to her are her father, Mike Harris and Josh Riley who was Mark’s best friend and who fought side by side with him to prevent the devil’s apocalypse.
The Reverend Jonathan Fletcher is standing by the pulpit, looking out over the members of his congregation that have come for the services for Mark.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” the reverend says, as he lowers his eyes. Those are the last words the reverend speaks before a strong wind blows the oak doors of the church open and a man enters dressed in tattered robes, the color of desert sands. The man’s face is lined by age and circumstance. His eyes retain his youth and shine a brilliant shade of turquoise blue. This man is of great stature and towers in the doorway of the church. His features are those of the American Indian. All fall silent as this man slowly begins walking down the center aisle of the church. Josh steps out of the pew and stands at the front of the aisle before the altar. The man shakes his head and the cowl of his robe falls back revealing longish black hair that is streaked with shades of white and grey.
“Josh, it has been so many years, so many many years!” the stranger says as he fixes his eyes on Josh’s face. Josh recognizes the voice and feels his legs growing weak. He has to hold onto the finely carved ornate rail of the pew for support. Mike and Anne rush out of their seats and stand next to him.
“What’s going on Josh? Mark’s gone, why is this happening?” Anne asks, as she cries. The stranger continues to move closer to them.
“I saw you die,” Josh whispers in a broken voice. “I heard your last words when Mesphisto’s beast slew you. Tears run down Josh’s face as he speaks.
“I have been given a task, a second chance for my redemption,” the stranger replies. “I bear a gift for the one who is called Anne Talbot.” He steps forward now and reaching out, the stranger holds a pure white rose in his hand. “You are as lovely a creature as Lifthrasir said you were. Mark asks that you remember him.” The stranger places the rose in Anne’s hand and she lunges forward and grabs his robe.
“You have to tell me, is Mark still alive?” But it is too late for answers for the robe falls to the aisle and only the dust remains of the stranger who has spoken.
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