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The unnatural ruckus forced me to open my eyes. It took several minutes before the chaotic scene registered in my consciousness. Many of the reptilian demons at the tables in front of me were leaping to their feet, sending chairs scattering behind them, while Bazial shouted commands in a language unknown to me and waving his arms in wild abandon. Whatever the commotion, it seemed to be throwing my tormentors into a state of panic. They scattered to doorways opening at this end of the hall.

Most of the humans had fallen to the floor in fetal positions with hands covering their heads.  Flames flickering from the bank of speakers lit up the musicians on the stage.  Two of the guitarists lay face down and unmoving.  One set of drums was scattered in haphazard fashion from where the stage had collapsed, the drummer no longer visible.  The remaining musicians had abandoned the instruments and were running through the prone bodies on the dance floor.

On the staircase down which I had earlier been brought, men in dark grey uniforms were descending.  They all carried guns from where intermittent muzzle flashes were visible over the banister.  They appeared to be firing above the heads of the dancers, perhaps to force them to remain cowering on the floor.  Unable to move from my lofty position, the crackle of the weapons and whine as bullets ricocheted from walls and ceilings unnerved me. 

Some of the demons now also carried instruments that I guessed must be weapons.  They were rods the length of an adult-human arm but slightly smaller in diameter.  The end of the rod I assumed to be the muzzle was encircled by three or four broad rings.  Beams of bluish-purple light flared from the central rod or tube causing anything they struck to ignite with a blue flame.  The first group of grey-clad soldiers had neat round holes burned through their chests as they reached the cavern floor.  Five died without knowing what hit them.  The next group leapt over the banister with automatic weapons spitting bullets which ripped similar holes in lizard flesh.  Mesmerized, I watched the riddled bodies of six fall to the ground before mayhem ensued.

The humans were well prepared for the battle; the reptiles were not.  Many died as they ran to collect weapons.  Those that had been quickest to react more than held their ground with the superior fire-power of those hellish purple rays.  They were greatly outnumbered by the human troops however, and were slowly being forced back. 

Three human figures left the main group, firing indiscriminately as they approached me.  Not until I heard one call out my name did I imagine the scene as anything more than a hallucination, a figment of my pain-racked senses. 

“Loriel!  My god!  What have they done to you?”

Unable to turn the breath in my agonized lungs into intelligible speech, I could only think how stupid and typical of a human male if he could not see they had nailed me to a wooden cross.  Like the rest of the attacking force, he wore a dark colored helmet with tinted visor, although, unlike most, his was raised to expose the upper part of the face and eyes.  Memories of the face of Bran overlaid on that of the speaker nestled into my consciousness.  There was a similarity in appearance to make me wonder if they were related.  The only decoration on his uniform was an emblem on the chest depicting a crown with the letters RA above. 

“Don’t try to speak…”  My mouth may have been open, but did he not realize it was only an attempt to make breathing a little easier?  To the other two he added, “Help me get her down.  Carefully!”  I closed my eyes as my head was jolted against the beam.

The pain in my shoulders and chest eased as the force of earth’s gravity on my arms was reduced.  A thought nagged in my mind - where was Bazial?  I could sense his presence near, but could not see him.  I turned my head to the wall and the door into the office where he had raped me.  I was certain that is where he now hid.

“Loriel?  Look at me.  Hang in there.”

I turned my head back to my liberator, and opened my mouth to try to warn him, but was unable to produce any sound other than a strangled sob.

His gloved hand touched my shoulder.  “I will try to get the nails out.  This may hurt, so don’t try to talk.”  He turned to his companions.  “Bring me one of the hammers then hold her arm still.” 

Kneeling beside me, he removed the helmet.  I stared at the tousled sandy hair in shock.  “Bran?”  My mouth could only form the word silently.  If my hands were free and I had the strength, I would have hit him for deserting me. 

The claw on the end of the hammer, I guessed, was for removing nails.  That was the use to which Bran applied the device with the other two men holding my arm still.  I could not look, but clenched my teeth together as I felt the metal spike grate against bone.  It was not as painful as I expected, most likely because I had lost most of the feeling in the limb. 

They turned their attention to the other arm, while I turned my head in the opposite direction toward the wall.  I could see the dark shadowy recess of the open doorway.  A partly obscured form was moving inside, although I had no awareness of any significance this might have.  I cried out with pain as the point of the nail was ripped from flesh.  When I opened my eyes again, Bazial was kneeling in the doorway with some kind of weapon pointing at us.  I could see it was not the same as those that emitted the purple ray.  It had none of the rings around the barrel.  It must have been the unreality of the situation that prevented me from realizing how he intended to use it. 

It is strange how tragedy seems to unfold in slow motion.  A tiny point of yellow light erupted from the mouth of the tube.  I watched it expanding into an orange sphere like a fireball as it streaked across the room before exploding against the chest of Bran.  The look on his face I can only describe as astonishment.  Without uttering a sound, he stared down at the charred jacket of his uniform for several seconds before collapsing across me.  The reactions of the other two were commendable.  They both grabbed their guns and sent a stream of automatic fire at the doorway.  From the edge of my vision, I witnessed the scuttling form of the reptilian disappear into the inner gloom before the door thudded shut.

With Bran lying across the beam on top of me, I could feel the intense heat from the fireball searing into my breasts, yet I had not the strength to move him.  I tried to ignore the pain, focusing my telepathic energy into his awareness to ascertain the damage his nervous system had sustained.  The mind-shield that he had previously used to block my psychic perception was no longer active.  I could read panic and chaos in his thoughts.  He was very close to death. 

I could sense the spirit of TeeRaigo Bran about to depart as it sought release from the pain.  An uninjured angel would have the power to heal damaged tissue in a human if the soul could be prevented from abandoning the body.  In my weakened state, I had little chance of success unless I could absorb the injuries into myself.  To do so would certainly result in the death of my own physical body.  I touched the entity, my spirit reaching out to calm the fear surging through it. 

Dexter!  Amazement sent shock-waves coursing through me.  Bad boy Dexter Malheuse or at least, the spirit of the human I once knew as Bad boy Dexter Malheuse.  The one with whom a moment of indiscretion had led me into this world. 

I am certain he did not recognize me.  Our relationship had been one sided from the start.  I was infatuated with him.  He had no knowledge that I even existed, the curse of being a guardian angel.  But here was the end to my imprisonment.  Within a few minutes, the body of Bran was certain to die.  His soul would be released allowing me to accompany him to levels of higher vibration.  Perhaps, even back to my own world of warmth and light.

Images flooded through my mind. His spirit was communicating with me, pleading with me, but not with words.  Words are like pen and ink cartoon sketches, depicting the vibrant reality seen in a world of living color and so easily misunderstood.  Spirits communicate with pure thought, pure emotion. 

I saw the same picture of the young woman with blond hair and carrying the tiny baby that he showed me while demonstrating the mind shield. I felt the overwhelming love he had for the two that swamped my emotions.  The woman, Mika with Gabriella stood before his tomb.  There was a sense of deep misery in their destitute and emaciated appearance.

The images changed, flashing before my eyes like a movie.  I was aware of foreseeing the future.  The passage of time is a restriction limited only to a physical world.  Clairsentient and precognitive abilities are normal for a spirit.  The difficulty comes when the spirit tries to communicate the information with sentient beings in that world, perhaps through dreams. 

A melancholic red dusk clouded the pictures.  I watched the torture and death of the mother, Mika.  I saw the child as a young woman, subject to horrifying experiments in cloning and cross breeding at the hands of the demonic reptiles.  I saw the destruction of the city, Srong Servina, the world civilization crushed beneath the heavy-booted feet of the demonic horde.  I watched a vision of Queen Rayna Alsatia tortured and burned at the stake, while members of the human government were executed in public. 

Although this was only the probable outcome of events if things continued the way they were going, there was no guarantee that they would be different if Bran lived.  Matters were beyond my control.  In my present state of health, I could not be expected to do anything.  If Bran lived and my body died, I would be trapped here, forced to haunt this limbo like the ghosts we released from the prison in the cathedral crypt.  Even if the capture of those six souls had been indirectly due to my actions, I had been used by the demons, coerced against my will to trap and ensnare the human spirits.  I could not be held to blame for being naïve, for wanting to see the good and not the evil in the minds of all living creatures.

I could almost convince myself it was not my fault; that the future of this dimensional reality was of no concern of mine.  Almost convince myself, but not quite.
The spirit of Dexter, Bran had drawn out the silver umbilical cord that bound him to the flesh; was floating above the body.  If the cord was to break, the soul would soar, free as a bird.  I took a deep breath; deeper than anything I had tried before, gritting my teeth as I attempted to shut out the agony of my own pain-wracked limbs and torso.  My mind reached inside the sentient awareness that was Bran, absorbing the molten fire from the injuries in his chest.

I can honestly say the pain was beyond anything I could ever have imagined.  I felt myself floating, forcing a way above the suffering; lifted like water vapor under a tropical mid-day sun.  I was rising up through a long dark tunnel toward a blinding golden light at the end.  There was no more pain.  I was free.  I was climbing on feathered wings the way a hawk soars on thermals of warm air.  An overwhelming sense of ecstatic peace swept through me increasing the nearer I approached the light.  My thoughts reached out, wishing to embrace the wonderful creation of all living beings.  The spirit of Dexter, Bran, was rising beside me.  We touched with our thoughts weaving through each other.


I had been too late.  The cord had broken.  Bran was dead! 

His cadaver lay sprawled across the corpse of an angel called Loriel in a dark underground cavern beneath the Cathedral of Saint Julian in the southern quarter of Srong Servina.  My attempt to save him had failed.  But my quest to find the spirit I had lost while a guardian angel had succeeded.  My indecisiveness in choosing whether to heal him, or not, had led to this.  The outcome of events on earth was no longer my concern.  I was free!

I stepped into the light to kneel, naked and alone, before the elders in the Hall of Justice on my home world of Mardu, the same Elders who had judged my crime of violation against an immortal spirit three centuries ago.  Beside them stood the accuser, garbed in his black robe edged with vermillion, who had passed sentence on me then.  The scroll that documented my guilt was in his hands. 

“Loriel!”  He stared at me with eyes of vivid argon blue.  “You have been summoned here to face charges for crimes of violation against the spirits of seven human males during your exile on their world.  That by negligence and failure to take precautionary measures to ensure their safety, those spirits have been forcibly separated from their physical bodies and trapped in that dimensional reality as wandering ghosts.”

 So of course, the responsibility would be placed on me.  “But it was not my fault…” 

“Silence!  Ignorance is no justification for your lack of discipline.  You have been judged by your peers and found guilty.  You will be returned to Earth, and there you will remain until each of those souls has been located and returned to their rightful place.

“We accept the sacrifice you made in allowing the death of your own body while attempting to heal the human TeeRaigo Bran.”  His voice had lost no more than a degree of cold callousness.  “After the release of his soul which you brought here with you, his body lies in coma in a hospital in Srong Servina.  Even though the body breathes, without a spirit it has no will.  A zombie.  We have therefore made the decision to allow you to use that body during your sentence.”

I could not believe what I was hearing.  How could they?  A beautiful female angel like me - modesty may not be my middle name, but all angels are considered beautiful when compared to demons, humans and even elves.  To be locked in the body of a human male.  It was unthinkable.  I was filled with disgust. 

In silence, they all stared at me as if I was a carrier of plague.  My deportation was decreed, and there was nothing I could do to change their decision.  I stepped back into the darkness.  On a hospital bed in Srong Servina, TeeRaigo Bran opened his eyes.