The Saint of Fools
The Saint, Grayson Lighthold, Defender of Humanity, “I whom the gods would destroy.”
Clutching the Sword of Destiny on an airship bound for who knows where, Grayson remembered another time. . .
Grayson smiled at the Lilith, recalling their first encounter so many centuries ago. Lilith, whose dark hair and dark eyes stood in stark contrast to her pale skin, had never looked lovelier. The red dress accentuated her full lips that concealed sharp canines, which she bared in a sincere smile. The demon was one the most beautiful creatures he had ever encountered and he meant to make this moment last. Lilith loved the sights and sounds of the ocean. The two walked silently along the water’s edge, hand in hand, as the sun set in the Western Sky.
She broke the silence with a sultry voice that alone could ensnare a man’s heart. “A war is coming, my love. I fear our time together is . . .”
He put a finger to her lips before she could finish her statement. “We will find a way.” He smiled, “You have to have faith.” He didn’t look at her for fear of revealing the sadness in his eyes.
She smiled again, this time the kind of smile that one shows to a child who knows nothing of the harsh ways of the world. “Perhaps you will have to have enough faith for the both of us. I seem to have lost mine a long time ago.”
“I will have enough until we find yours.” Again, the angel did not look at the succubus.
“My people will not be exiled. The Adversary has made it quite clear that he means to rule the heavens, no matter what the cost. The Source has been silent for so long, why do you remain loyal to Him?” The demon looked at him expectantly.
“You know why, Lilith. For the same reason that the waves crash into the shore or the lightning splits the sky, I am loyal to the Source. It is simply the way of things.”
The woman’s voice softened, and red tears started to trail from her eyes, matching the color of her dress, “You would forsake me . . .forsake us. . . for this absent father. If you joined with the Adversary, turned your back on the Source, you would be a general, nay, a prince in his legion.”
“And the cost would be my soul.”
“Is that such a high price to pay for an eternity together? Imagine it, Grayson,” her voice took on a pleading tone, “forever the two of us holding hands, making love, ruling this world like we were meant to do.” She moved closer to him, the warmth of her breath caressed his ear and neck.
“The council will reach an accord. You’ll see. The Adversary wants a kingdom; Leoness and the council will give it to him and his lust for power will be sated.” Grayson smiled assuredly with the confidence of youth and inexperience.
Lilith looked away frowning, “I hope you are right.” Knowing for certain that he was not.
The two stood for long moments looking at each other as the sun set on the horizon. Lilith produced an object wrapped in a red cloth and handed to Grayson.
“A gift for you.” She smiled, again the canines showed.
Grayson unwrapped the object below revealing an ornate longsword marked with glowing sigils along the entirety of the blade.
“It is called the Sword of Destiny. My hope is that, whatever happens, it serves you well. I only ask that each time you draw it, you think of me.”
He smiled, that same boyish smile that she fell in love with, and said, “This is not goodbye Lilith, I. . .” with that she put her finger to his lips to cut him off. She kissed him tenderly. Her dark bat-like wings spread behind her and then she disappeared in a cloud of dark smoke.
“The talks have failed, Grayson. The Adversary has declared war on both heaven and the Source. He will not stop until both the world and the Realm Above are his.”
In disbelief, Grayson stood as the end of his world hit him like a smack across the face.
“You are needed, Grayson. The time is short, as our intelligence indicates that the Adversary is amassing an army on the shores of the northern sea. Remember your oaths.” Although two-thousand years his senior, Lovarious resembled a female child of no more than 12 years of age. She looked at him impatiently.
“I have not forgotten the oaths that I swore to you or the Source.” Grayson hesitated, as he realized the shores of the Northern sea was the last place he saw Lilith. “Lovarious, is there any other assignment that I could complete. The Northern shores hold many joyful memories that I do not wish to tarnish with the horror of battle.”
“We of the council are quite aware of your tryst with that. . . thing. . . it pains me, child, to tell you that you should have known better.” She looked at him apologetically and then her voice hardened. “If your broken heart is the only wound you sustain in the coming war, then you will be fortunate indeed. I need you on the Northern Shore. You will lead the Angels of Defiance, decimate your opponents and take no prisoners. You will not fail me or the Source.” Her eyes glowed with holy fire at the mention of their silent creator.
“Yes mistress, as you command.” With that, the young angel turned on his heel and left the room in silence, his hand on the hilt of the Sword of Destiny.
On the third day, the seven Angels of Defiance gathered on the Northern Shores. The waves crashed angrily against the cliffs. The skies darkened and a legion of demons erupted from a pool of flames and ash. Outnumbered ten to one, the angels stared at their foes, the crisp flapping of their banner broke the silence that often accompanies the precipice of battle.
A wave of black taloned demons charged the small band of Angels, as gouts of dark hellfire blasted from their hands. Initially, the blasts were harmlessly absorbed by the protective barrier erected by Sigil, Grayson’s second in command. The girl grunted as the frequency and intensity of the assault increased. Grayson put a hand on her shoulder to steady her, then nodded as his men raised their weapons in a salute.
The angels attacked with fury and resolve as they faced the legions of the Realms Below. Scores of demons fell that day, but their numbers never seemed to diminish. For each demon that fell, four more appeared to take its place. Given these odds the Angels embraced their fate, true to their oaths, vowing to take as many of the demons with them as possible.
Of the Angels, Soulwalk was the first to fall. Swarmed by gnaw demons, he was dead in a manner of moments in a blur of blood and feathers. The others were not far behind, as Legacy, Sigil, Armor, Quince and Truth joined the legions of the dead. Grayson stood alone, sword in hand, battling for his absent father in a war he couldn’t win.
As if by some form of divine intervention, the demonic legions withdrew from their assault. A single, thin, bat-winged demon clad in the red armor of hell approached the young angel. The demon, clearly the leader of this legion, drew a wicked flaming sword indicating a challenge of single combat. The other demons formed a circle around the two, creating an arena formed of writhing flesh, tentacles, fangs and claws. Grayson knew that only one of the two combatants would walk away from this fight and the odds were stacked against him. The demon attacked with a ferocity and strength that betrayed his smaller frame. Although Grayson parried the majority of the blows with the Sword of Destiny, the demon general was able to land a solid blow to his torso. Purple blood streamed from a deep gash in his side. Grayson gritted his teeth and clutched the sword in both hands, remembering the words of his beloved. He lashed out with an assault of his own, striking the helm of the demon and temporarily blinding his foe. The demon grunted and pulled off the helm, revealing a mane of full, dark hair.
Grayson stood frozen at the realization of the combatant whom he faced. Lilith, his lover, stood before him brandishing a flaming sword, eyes glowing red with rage and battle lust. The legions of hell stood behind her- chanting her name and jeering at the lone Angel.
“We knew that it would end some day, Grayson. I am sorry, my little saint, that I have to be one to do it.” Tears of blood streamed from her eyes. “Surely you understand that one of us has to die here today.”
“There has to be another way, Lilith. Please, I beg you, don’t make me do this.” Grayson pleaded.
“Your choices are to join us or face me in combat. The Adversary would have it no other way; that is why he sent me here- so you could not win.” As tears streaked her face, she uttered. “Don’t keep me waiting, lover.”
Grayson squeezed the hilt of his sword. She knew that he would not abandon his oath or the Source, he wasn’t sure that he even could. What seemed like an eternity passed, and Grayson lowered his sword. “I will not fight you, Lilith.”
“Splendid.” She snapped her fingers and an infernal contract wrapped around a quill appeared in her hand. “This will take a little of your blood.” Lilith smiled sincerely at the thought of the angel’s surrender. “You really are making the right decision.”
“You misunderstand me, love. I will not fight you, but I will not join you either.” Grayson hardened his voice. “Make it quick.”
Lilith stood silent and still for a long moment. Tears of blood flooded her eyes- those eyes he had grown to love. She moved toward him, lashing out with rage, confusion and sadness. She stopped as the flames of the blade licked Grayson’s neck. “You stupid, naïve, fool. I never loved you. I seduced you as I was ordered by the Adversary. Even now your cursed, pathetic heart won’t let you face your death like a warrior. Stupid, silly Saint of fools- you will die today!” Her tone was mocking, her words acid. She was doing her best to summon his ire, assault his pride, but the tears in her eyes betrayed the truth.
In a final gesture, Grayson, the so-called Saint of Fools opened his arms and his wings and looked to the Realms Above.
Lilith moved close, bringing her sword high for a final strike. Their foolish love had built this moment. One of them had to die. The angel would die and she would be become a duchess In the New World created by the Adversary. She would forget him; love was a weakness she could not afford right now.
As the arc of the blade started its inevitable descent, a bolt from the heavens stuck the succubus, knocking her back and saving Grayson. Two angels descended from above, securing the wounded angel. Grayson looked back at the woman he loved, whose eyes flashed red in fury and bloodlust. He still held her gift, the Sword of Destiny tightly in his right hand. He knew the price of her failure would be death and this was the last time that he would look upon her.
The Angels retreated toward the city of Light. When they were out of sight, Lilith was greeted by a familiar sight. Mordos, first general of the Adversary stood before her.
“The angel escaped.” He said, disappointedly, an element of menace in his voice.
Lilith, fearful, replied with a nod.
“And he left with the sword?” Mordos asked quizzically.
“Yes, my lord.” She replied.
“You have done well, child, and you will be rewarded.” He put his hand under her cheek, a mock paternal gesture. Mordos seemed pleased, which only confused the succubus. “That love-sick fool is too blind to see the truth.”
“Your Grace?” Lilith looked at him, confused.
“Didn’t they tell you, dear? The sword allows us to spy on him, and subsequently whomever else he comes into contact with. The sword also weakens him; denying him access to his innate abilities. It was one of Balstus’s greatest creations. Such delicious irony that he wields his doom in his own hands.”
Lilith smiled outwardly. “How wonderful m’lord.” She realized that she too had been manipulated by the Adversary.
“Come, there is much to be done. You, Lilith, will lead the invasion- the Adversary is quite pleased with you.” Mordos, looking to the disappointed demon legions, “And you all will have your blood lust sated!”
“You are a fool, Grayson. You are incredibly lucky, but you remain a fool.” Bradley said, smiling at his friend.
“The others are dead, Bradley, and Lilith was about to . . .”
“What did you expect, brother? She is a demon-slut. You thought she would leave with you? She is a temptress, that is what she does.”
“You didn’t see her.” He thought back to the tears, to the words that she said. “She is probably dead by now.”
“And you are better off for it.” Bradley retorted.
“I am done with it, Bradley. I am done with the orders, the oath and the legion.” Grayson said.
“You are just shaken up. You lost your entire squad and Lilith. They said that this would happen.” Bradley immediately became silent as if realizing he said too much.
“What do you mean, who said?” Grayson felt his stomach clench at the realization. He knew that Bradley could not lie when asked a direct question, it was one of the oaths.
“Um, they, ah, the council.” He stuttered. “They wanted to test your loyalty to the Source. They knew Lilith would be there, they just didn’t expect the full legion to show.”
“What?!” His men were dead, and Lilith, if not dead, was probably being tortured and wishing for the release of death.
“You didn’t disappoint, Grayson. I mean, I think they wanted you to smite her or something more holy, but the path of the martyr is always welcome here. Besides, you woke up the Source! That has got to mean something to you.”
“Yeah. I guess it does.” Grayson said quietly.
When they arrived at the City of Light, Grayson walked straight to the council chamber and burst through the massive double doors, a trail of purple blood followed him.
“The Angels of Defiance are dead.” Grayson said coldly. “All because of you and your test.”
“They are not all dead, as you stand before us.” Lovarious replied matter-of-factly.
“I should be dead; I should have died out there with my men.”
“You were about to surrender to that whore.” Leoness, right hand of the Source and leader of the council impatiently said.
“I would not take up arms against the woman I love.” Grayson replied calmly.
“You are an idiot, boy. You will learn that the world is far more complicated than you can imagine.” Solstus, an older council member who appeared as a large black man with bright white wings, admonished him.
“I will not learn that lesson from you, sir. . . I quit.” Grayson said coolly.
“You are oathbound. You are sworn to serve the Source.” Solstus replied furiously.
“I will find my own path to the Source, but not as part of your legion. I relinquish my oaths. I will face exile, alone.”
“My son, take a moment to consider your actions. You are one of our most valued warriors.” Lovarious stated in a practiced, soothing voice.
“The same way you considered my ‘test’?” Grayson retorted. “I have considered enough.” With that he spun on his heel as his footfalls echoed in the silent chamber. Saint, as that is what she called him, left the city of Light, clutching the hilt of the Sword of Destiny and thinking about Lilith’s smile.