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The fate of the world weighs heavy on Yeshua Star's shoulders with no help from any quarter. No one wants to believe that Ithane is back, and yet they all feel her spirit is growing stronger within Yeshua every day. Will Yeshua win the struggle against a ghost of the past? Or will she give in and let the world be damned?
Yeshua Star is back and feeling all alone in her fight against the darkness and a looming threat of Armageddon.
The Angels are coping with their newly released ability to do anything they want—so are doing nothing. The immortals are holding secret meetings. Haunting dreams of Chaz’s imminent death keep Yeshua off-balance and looking for answers.
The fate of the world still weighs heavy on her shoulders with no help from any quarter. No one wants to believe that Ithane is back, and yet they all feel her spirit is strong within Yeshua and growing stronger every day.
Will Yeshua win the struggle against a ghost of the past? Or will she give in and let the world be damned?
“It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.”
~ G.K. Chesterson
“I make jokes about many religions, but I stopped laughing long ago.”
~ Yeshua Star
The first time I ever encountered evil, I have to admit—I was disappointed. I’ve gotten over it. With the things I have seen, I’m no longer disappointed by evil. It even manages to surprise me on occasion.
That’s what I was concerned about now. It was quiet—way too quiet for my satisfaction. In my opinion, it’s the little ones and the quiet ones you need to worry about. This one wasn’t little, but she was way too quiet.
On my way into the lair of one of the big bads that I’d managed to accidentally set free from imprisonment, I was distracted by other thoughts—like making sure my ass came out in one piece. In this case, the lair was a three bedroom rambler painted a hideous shade of green that stuck out like a big, neon X marks the spot in a fairly quiet, otherwise normal neighborhood. There’s no accounting for taste, especially not demonic taste.
Astaroth was no slouch within the ranks of the Fallen Ones. In the first go-around of the Angelic Wars, she was the seductress who turned many of the Host toward the side of Lucifer and the Fallen. She was up to her old tricks. Here it was, only four months since Abaddon had been released upon the unsuspecting Earth and she had already turned almost a dozen of the once faithful Host to fight for the other side.
Maybe I need to back up a little. My name is Yeshua Star. I am employed by the Church in an unacknowledged capacity to handle the things they try not to let the masses know even exist. What does that mean? I get paid—no taxes, no W-2s—for hunting things that could easily kill me—or worse. Believe me; with the types of things I face, death was the better option.
My life was pretty cut and dried until recently. I thought I had a pretty good handle on what it was all about. Who wouldn’t in my position? I had carte blanche in my job, a great assistant who helped me stay out of my own way, and back up when needed in the form of the ancient gods.
Okay, so maybe they weren’t gods. They were actually humans who had learned to work the system, knew a little hocus pocus, and possessed immortality. They had once been worshipped as gods in times so long ago that most of us don’t even remember. Apparently I should have. Not too long ago I found out that although my human body had only been around for some thirty-odd years, this wasn’t the first time I had been pounding a beat on Earth.
All of this came to light—and then some—when the angels knocked on my door. I mean that in a literal sense. It’s funny. Even though I spent years growing up in church-run homes under the strict tutelage of the priests who groomed me for my job, I’d never really given any thought to the existence of angels. I fought the good fight against the darkness, kicking some serious demon tail. Now I recognize that there’s a balance between the darkness and light that needs to be maintained. For all the years I picked at the edges of the darkness to break its hold wherever I could, it hadn’t dawned on me that there were beings of light just as powerful as those things of the dark I fought against.
It gets better. The angels had shown up to convince me to step up to the plate and make choices that would affect all of humanity. The real kicker was when they said it was because I used to be one of them. Me—an angel—how laughable is that? I’m certainly far from angelic in this lifetime.
Little by little, they offered me proof I couldn’t deny. I’m not saying that I accepted the role they wanted me to play. After all, I am human. The one thing I had that they didn’t was free will. I could choose not to play. For the angels to have free will and all the power they do at their fingertips…well, let’s just say that’s how the Great Flood happened so many years ago. It had Earth shattering implications.
Then again, I’m queen of the loophole. If it’s there, I’ll find it—usually by accident. That’s what happened in this case. As it turned out, even my choice not to participate was a choice that had ramifications. In essence, my free will was limited. I was the contestant who got to pick door number one, two, or three to gamble for the high stakes of humanity’s existence.
My choice actually resulted in a door number four—an option that hadn’t been offered, but just sort of, well, happened. They tried to take away my free will, and I gave them back theirs in such a way that it wasn’t destroying the world—yet. Isn’t there always a yet or a but—? I wasn’t sure whether what I had done was a good thing or a bad thing. Did I pick the right door, or was I waiting for the booby prize to be sprung?
My choice, if you want to call what I did a choice, led to the release of Abaddon from the pit of the Abyss, where he had been locked away for thousands of years. Sound familiar? We’re talking Biblical Armageddon, here. Only, for some strange reason, it’s not just the Christian end-of-the-world scenario that’s being played out. I’ve seen signs from the prophecies of multiple religions happening around me. All of them signal the same thing—game over for humanity.
So while the angels are up in the Crystal City fighting it out amongst themselves with their new reality of free will, I’m here trying to track down some of the Fallen Ones that had escaped from the Abyss along with Abaddon. It kind of ticked me off that the angels weren’t giving me a whole lot of back up, but can you imagine? These all-powerful creatures with nothing but time on their hands, had never really made a decision for themselves. Ever. Now they could. I was betting there was a whole lot of turmoil on the heavenly plane.
Besides, what I was doing down here wasn’t that great. Angels, even the Fallen Ones, could only take physical form if they possessed the body of a human. The job I had taken on, with the blessings of the Church, was to track down the hordes of the Fallen to wherever they had “hosted”, exorcise the demon, and either destroy it or send it back to the Abyss. That might sound pretty simple, but with the exception of a few, never was.
The simple ones didn’t mean a whole lot in the scheme of things. The one I had tracked to her most recent host was not going to be a simple one. She was one of Lucifer’s top dogs. I’m sorry, Lucien. He had adapted his name to resonate to a different energy, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I had once met the big bad in the Garden of Eden. But that’s another story in and of itself.
Astaroth was one of Lucien’s generals, Commander of the Eighth Order of Hell. She’s also what they affectionately called the Treasurer of Souls. But we’re not talking human souls. She collects angelic souls for the bad guys. Astaroth was a seductress extraordinaire. She knew how to draw in those angels who were wavering on the fence. Right now, that meant all of them.
That was one of my biggest problems in dealing with the Angelic Host. I’d pretty much given up trying to help them sort things out. Let them do it. The angels had lived for millennia staring down their noses at humanity. It’s easy to be judgmental about the choices others make when you’ve given up your own free will. Temptation was not an easy thing to fight, and the Heavenly Host was just figuring that out.
The start of thumping noises froze my wandering thoughts. My heart began beating in time to the thumps, sounding loud and hollow in my ears. Low moans built in intensity, and I almost groaned out loud. Oh, great. She wasn’t alone. But the rhythmic noise pacing the tempo of my heart told me that she was well-distracted.
“Kid, I’ve got trouble,” I breathed as quietly as I could into the open mic strapped to my chest.
“I hear it, Yesh. Father David and I are headed in.”
“No,” my whisper was harsh. “Wait. I can’t afford to have either of you caught up in her crap. You have to give me time to get Phase One started, then you can come in.”
“No buts, kid. You’re both males—you wouldn’t stand a chance.”
“We’ll wait for your cue, Yeshua. Good luck.”
“What? No prayers, Father?” I smiled at the last.
“You have a more direct line to God than I do, child. What more could my prayers add?”
I chuckled. “Just a little reassurance, Padre. Hold tight. I’m going in.”
He was right. I had actually spoken to the Big Guy face to face, even though I hadn’t known it at the time. He was just another angel. Well, maybe not just another angel. But He had been a lot more down to earth than the others, both literally and figuratively speaking. I had first seen Him on a day of “rest”—at the opium den owned by Morpheus, the immortal who held sway over the dream world with his brothers. Again, another story. I couldn’t afford the distraction right now.
After managing to make it all the way into the house where Astaroth was holed up, I paused to take full stock of the situation. During the stakeout, Chaz had kept watch from a distance, so we would know when we’d be able to corner her at home. Exorcising her from the mortal body she inhabited was the easy part—provided whoever it was she knocked demon boots with on the other side of the bedroom door hadn’t already fully turned to the side of the Fallen. The hard part was snaring her before she could escape and take on another host. Then we’d have to start all over again.
At least the job would be easier. I already smelled the foul stench that went hand in hand with her energy signature, which is how we had managed to track her this far. The putrid aroma made me want to vomit. To males, for some reason, it was the smell of pure lust that drew them into her arms without a struggle.
That’s the other interesting thing about angels. All the stories and legends surrounding them suggest that they’re androgynous—neither male nor female. It could be that without a host, they are. And yet, they all seemed to have slipped into choosing one form or the other through the years. I didn’t understand that part, but maybe it had something to do with the whole as above, so below concept. Men and women used to work more side by side, until there was a need to delineate between the sexes to subjugate one or the other to the will of whoever happened to be in charge. There were a lot more male angels right now—an interesting reflection of the patriarchal world down below. The tides were turning, though. I was curious to how that would all play out in the scheme of things.
Of course, it made things a lot easier for Astaroth’s particular blend of energy. It didn’t seem to sit well with the female population, angel or human. That’s why Father David and Chaz had to stay outside until I got the ball rolling on the exorcism. If given the chance, the demoness would use her control over the males against me. She had to be completely engaged in the fight before they could be of any use. The thought made me cringe. This was going to hurt.
The speeding of the rhythm with its accompanying moans indicated that things were heading toward the high point, so it was time for me to move. The last thing I wanted to do was to walk in on Astaroth having wild demon sex with one of the Heavenly Host, but it gave me the advantage of surprise. A silent three count steadied my nerve while I slowly turned the doorknob in my hand. On three, I pushed the door open, stopping it from crashing into the wall to alert those inside of my presence.
The fetid stench of Astaroth’s pheromones rolled over me, mingled with the odor of sweat and sex. My stomach turned over, but that’s not what made me gag. It was the sight of the intertwined bodies, if you could call it that. The hosted body morphed back and forth between human and demonic form. The demon essence of the body seemed to merge into the flesh of the male who rode on top. It was a grotesque collage of mingled energy, on multiple levels. I couldn’t close my eyes against it and I think that pained me more than anything.
Gritting my teeth, I stepped into the room and raised a crucifix in a tight fist before either occupant registered my presence. I initiated the slow intonation of the Rites of Exorcism, but my voice was far from steady.
“In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.”
Not hesitating, I flung the contents of an opened bottle of Holy Water toward the converged bodies on the bed. I strode with solemn purpose toward the resulting screams, taking another vial, filled with Oil of Catechumens, out of my inner pocket. The male on top was flung across the room. He hit the wall with a thud, but I didn’t have any time to spare for him. My focus was on Astaroth. It had to be.
Chaz and Father David would be running in now. If I could keep this going until they got here, we actually might have a chance. I jumped on top of Astaroth, pinning her writhing, pain-wracked body to the bed with the cross. Grabbing the cork from the vial with my teeth, I poured it over her forehead, dropping the bottle to impress the sign of the cross in the oil with my thumb while the words continued to flow from my mouth.
“Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas–”
I was almost dislodged from my perch when someone grabbed me from behind. At the same time, Astaroth began to violently flail, trying to throw me off. I rode her thrashing body without losing my seat, but the cross came up from her chest for a split second. She took advantage of the loss of contact and brought the claws of her right hand up to scratch at my neck. The resulting touch burned me as much, I’m certain, as the cross burned her when I slammed it back to her chest, continuing the litany that I couldn’t afford to let be interrupted.
“—in nomine et virtute Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, eradicare et effugare—”
The guy at my back tried to dislodge me. Great. She had him locked. I kept my mind on the task, but he was strong. The sound of a struggle erupted, and I felt him pulled away. Chaz and Father David had arrived.
“—Non ultra audeas, serpens callidissime, decipere humanum genu—”
I wrestled another object out of my jacket pocket and held it up. A gold medallion gleamed in the dim light of the room, emblazoned on both sides with symbols of the Church. Astaroth screamed and started another assault to dislodge me. I didn’t budge. Slapping the medallion to her forehead, I raised my voice to be heard above the sounds of her agonized shrieks of pain.
“—Imperat tibi Deus Pater; imperat tibi Deus Filius; imperat tibi Deus Spiritus Sanctus. Imperat tibi majestas Christi—”
A crash sounded from behind just as Astaroth’s oily black form started oozing from every orifice of the woman beneath me. The demoness was extricated. Now came the hard part—the binding. I started pulling in energy while Astaroth coalesced into form above the bed. I raised my head and whipped the energy around her. My body crumpled with the impact of a force that pushed me off the bed and to the floor. I tried to untangle myself from the pile of limbs on top of me, keeping my eye on Astaroth.
The demoness hesitated for a second, allowing me to try and call the dropped energy back into play. She seemed to understand that escape was more important than revenge. When my redirected lines of energy streaked toward her, she dodged and flung herself at the window. The glass shattered, exploding outward from the bedroom. She was gone.
A scream of pure fury erupted from deep within me. Damn and double damn. We had lost our chance. I wasn’t sure we’d get another like it. Astaroth would be on heightened alert, even if we did somehow manage to find her again.
The body on top of me had ceased its struggles. I heaved with strength born of sheer frustration, the adrenaline still singing in my veins from the demonic encounter. The man fell away, no longer fighting now that Astaroth had fled. That was a good sign. Maybe she hadn’t gained total control of him. I stood, using the bed for support against the weight of the body that lay across my feet.
While I staggered to regain my balance, I saw Chaz and Father David sitting dazed against the far wall of the room. My eyes met those of the priest and he looked around. I shook my head, face grim. His shoulders slumped and he climbed to his feet, both he and Chaz using the wall, and each other, to stand.
A low moan drew my attention back to the floor, where the naked male uncurled from a fetal position. I was furious. I reached out and grabbed a handful of wavy red locks, yanking the head up to see the face of the angel who was stupid enough to have been caught by Astaroth’s wiles. Ice blue eyes stared back at me in confusion.
Shock loosened my grip, letting him pull away. Shit. It wasn’t an angel. It was one of the immortals. I wanted to sink to my knees, but managed to stay erect, not knowing what to say. The confused pile of nakedness at my feet was Loki, once known as the Norse god of mischief. It somehow seemed fitting.