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[personal profile] misadventure_lad

Title: The Messenger
Fandom: Hellblazer
Pairing: John Constantine/ original content character
Rating: R
Word count: 7259
Author: Akili Estrella (copyright on original content, 2009).

As she passed the buildings the dappled sunlight retreated and the shadows expanded across the sky; the sun running behind a curtain at her presence. She turned up her collar and leaned against the edge of the building to wait. A mortal had summoned her and her task was simple. Deliver a message and was free to pursue life, or death, as she saw fit.

She was waiting for him eagerly. She knew how he looked, studied his patterns and at one time longed for his anguish when he'd come to the place she'd been imprisoned for so long. Her old master hated him and took it out on her. The Magician had made a fool of him and it was her smooth brown flesh, free of pocks and scales that'd borne the brunt of his rage.

 

The people on the street walked past her oblivious to the hungers she had developed so many years imprisoned. They did not understand that each breath was a vibration and that their simple living footsteps hit her as an enticing and irresistible melody. She inhaled deeply, the cool spring air reminding her of the time she lived on earth with her mother, what? Nearly a millenia before?

Her attention settled on a group of boys with red and white mufflers hanging loosely around their necks, ale and movement flushing their cheeks. They shoved each other, shouting from the front of the group to the back in waves. They spilled out into the street eliciting blares from horns and laughter from the women traveling across the way. They jostled up the street, pulling their mufflers tighter as they approached her. The noise from them slowed, until it stopped like a stream whose source had dried up. They changed formation from loose crowd of youth to a tight line of earnest trepidation. They shuffled by soberly, rank and file, shivering in this sudden snap of cold. Their cheeks were ashen now and their lips tight, unmoving, blue lines. None of them said anything. None of them looked at each other. It was understood that something had happened. They did not question it and they did not look into the shadow of the pub as they passed. They did not look at the woman that stood there in a black coat staring at them with the golden eyes of a lion.

She waited for some time, leaning against the rough brick wall of the pub. Except for a sudden shiver running from the top of their head to their core, no one noticed her or her effects as they passed. As a girl on the outskirts of her village, she'd learned to hide in plain sight. Her mind wandered to the sigils that ran along the bank of the stream that bordered mother's property. Mother had always warned her to stay within those markings because there was never any way to tell what the villagers would do. A smart shaikh would leave them alone; a stupid one, or one with something to prove would not and the sigils prevented them from coming too close. She never listened to mother though, not until it was too late. The magic wall kept the mortal intruders out, but all she had to do was repeat the words she heard her mother say and she could pass across the magic as easily as she stepped over the lizards that warmed themselves in the valley's sun. She would explore the village and the market that lay a half day's run beyond it for hours. She hid behind huts and in the shadows of goats, near baskets and in large crowds. As far as she could tell, no one ever saw her. If they did see the little girl with skin the color of bronze and eyes the color of amber, they never acknowledged it, although every once in a while an old woman would tighten her hijab around her face and shuffle faster in the dust.

She felt him before she saw him. She was hungry and all of the souls that wandered here sung out to her but his was more like a low throb. She was careful not to react because if anyone were to notice her, it would be him. She could hide from many eyes, but not from all of them. She'd taken that fact for granted when the ancestors of the people in the pub had come to her valley and made it run with blood centuries ago. The modern history books said that it had happened 900 years before, but she remembered it as though it were yesterday. She watched him approach the door of the pub in the window across the street. His hair was the color of bleached straw and he was unshaven. He wore a filthy beige trench coat and his pants were soiled with something she could not be sure of in the reflection and dim light. He paused for a moment before entering the pub. He seemed to sniff the air; sensing something odd about the immediate area, but unable to discern what. His eyes passed over her several times and she could tell that he was only seeing a vague composite of what she was. He probably sensed that whoever stood in the black coat was female, and was waiting for something but he could perceive little else. She was shielding him against what she truly was now, something she learned during her slavery in Jahannam. It was imperative that he not know who, or what, she was until after the message had been delivered. Too much knowledge and the message might be corrupted, or he might run from it. She held her breath and focused on being innocuous. Eventually the Magician went into the pub and settled himself at the bar. Eventually the Messenger exhaled and waited for him to emerge.

Hours later the Magician stepped from the pub's door, swaying slightly and smelling of old rotten things. The Messenger's senses had always been keen, even when she'd been alive on earth. She smelled the men that'd sacrificed her for profit before she'd seen them or felt their binding magicks. She'd heard their excited heartbeats as they had seized her. Now, she smelled the deeply ingrained stench of stale smoke and unwashed skin as the Magician approached her. She pulled a pack of Silk Cut cigarettes from her coat lining and lit one, timing her first exhale to coincide with the Magician's passing in front of her. He stopped, predictably, her breath sweetening the smoke. She was showing herself to him now, hoping that his drinking would subdue any feelings of alarm, yet allowing his mind to be clear enough to allow her to finish her task. Her skin had the subdued glow of tarnished copper, a smoke filled fire that was, at any minute going to erupt into an inferno. Her hair snaked thick and coiled down her back and over her chest, covering much of her face but revealing one of her shining golden eyes. She blew smoke past him as he stared at her, his mouth hanging open.

“Smoke?” she purred. “They're Silk Cut, if that'll do.” She knew they would do. She also knew that he'd smoked his last cigarette two hours ago and that he was wandering down the street to the shop owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bannerjee to buy a pack of Silk Cut and a bottle of scotch whiskey so cheap that it could barely be called fit for human consumption much less 'whiskey'. The Messenger did not usually purr, but she'd learned things from the succubi that she'd been sent to for “instruction” as her old master had phrased it. If all else failed, she knew how to stop a man with flourishes and lust.

The Magician studied her for a long moment before shrugging his shoulders and plucking the cigarette from her fingers wordlessly. He took the cigarette between his lips and patted himself in the areas of his coat pockets and finally spoke, “Have a light love? Or am I meant to succumb to your charms and be whisked off to Hell without taking a drag?” A smile curled her lips at that. Her former master had underestimated this human; it was easy to see why. She would not make the same mistakes. She pulled out an ornate silver lighter, a memento from her homeland, and light his cigarette.

“I haven't any plans to return there Mr. Constantine. I'm here on an assignment and once it is complete, I'll be on my way.” He regarded her cautiously as he inhaled around the thin white tube.

“Alright. Your job isn't to kill me I take it, else you'd have done it already. I noticed you when I went in. If I'd known you were so bloody ravishing I'd have invited you in for a pint.” And he smiled then, showing his yellowing teeth clamped around the Silk Cut. His eyes were watery and bloodshot, as though he was about to cry and he was still rocking gently round in a circle as he stood. The odor of intoxicants was overwhelming, even over the smoke that he exhaled.

“No Mr. Constantine, I am not here to take your mortal life. I am afraid, however, I must have your full and undivided attention to complete my task and I underestimated the affect of the alcohol that you consumed this evening. How long do you think it will take until your mind is once again clear?” Her English was impeccable but her original accent still clung to her words. She was done with her cigarette at this time, although there was a fair amount left. Without thinking she rolled the tube into the palm of her hand and it instantly disintegrated into dust that she let drift on the breeze. A young man had walked by while she did it and the small magic caught his attention. He began to stare at her directly and as many mortal men did when she was not shielding her true self, he dropped to his knees and crawled toward her, his eyes wide and his mouth slack. She sighed, waved her hand and commanded him “Up!” The boy rose, still enthralled and moving toward her, shivering unconsciously. The Magician noticed the shivering himself and pulled his coat closed as he finished his smoke. The boy began to cry, being in such close proximity to her. She stared at him, annoyed, focused on him and waved a hand over his eyes. He stopped crying and blinked twice. He looked disoriented. Being careful not to touch the Magician, the Messenger moved closer to him and spoke in low tones. “Mr. Constantine, I approached you here and in this manner so that you would not panic, try to escape or disappear completely. Based on my experience of humanity, they are more comfortable with potential danger when there are...witnesses,” she motioned towards the street, still full of people at this early hour of the morning. She went on “My presence here in the world causes some difficulties as you can see.”

The Magician took a great pains to avoid visibly trembling when she moved closer to him. It was so cold, as though someone had frozen his very blood. The chill was coming from the inside. He'd encountered many demons and none had this particular affect on him. The effect didn't stop at the cold. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever encountered, and he'd seen succubi that had seduced and drained men much more powerful than him. Her eyebrows were perfect; wide and dark while her skin seemed to be a blend of all of the most precious metals, glowing faintly in the spring darkness. Her hair wound into spirals that seemed too plush to be velvet, to thick to be penetrated. The arch of her nose was distinctive, a human characteristic, but it was still perfect. She was more gorgeous than any film star or model that existed and there was something else about her, something that made him not just want to drop trow at that moment and thrust himself into her, but something that made him want to stroke her face and hold her tight in his arms. He was trying to keep his breath shallow because succubi often worked by sending out mystical pheromones that deadened the frontal lobe functioning of the most brilliant men, but he ended up inhaling anyway. He was struck by the fact that he was not sporting the instant erection that generally accompanied smelling a succubus. She smelled wonderful, all the best smells of the spring and summer rolled into one.

“You're not a succubus at all, are you?”

“Of course not Mr. Constantine. Do succubi cool the raging fires inside of men or stoke them?” She was annoyed at being interrupted by his question and somewhat thrown off guard at how quickly he had begun to perceive her true origins. It was important that he not know who she was or why she'd been summoned for this particular task. Other men were slowing to look upon her and she did not wish to attract a crowd. She spoke again “Mr. Constantine, I require your mind to be clear and ultimately, I would wish to have more privacy in transacting our business. I am concerned, however, that you will not choose to transact this business freely should I let be leave this morning. It would annoy me greatly to have to search for you should you attempt to hide or obscure yourself with magic.”

“I'd never try to annoy you love. Not me, I'm a straight shooter.”

“Mr. Constantine? As a being that has been at the mercy of demons for the last 800 years of my existence, I do not find lies to be as charming as perhaps the human women you acquaint yourself with do.” The boy began mewling and the crowd of men on the street had grown and begun to include several women. The ones nearest to her had tears in their eyes and were shaking visibly. “Mr. Constantine, I am going to disperse this crowd and I am going to retire until the sun rises. I will meet you at the Cinnamon Club tomorrow afternoon. I suggest you use some of your legendary synchronistic magic to earn enough money for a trip to the barber and a decent, clean suit. If you do not appear promptly at 4 pm, all of your cleverness will not assist you in avoiding my anger. Do we have an understanding?”

“All you had to say was that you wanted a nice posh date with me sweetheart, I would've been happy to oblige.” He grinned again, the intense chill hurting his teeth. She was scowling at him now and the crowd of people were pressing into him. He thought that they would be just as happy to press through him to get to her. She was a very beautiful scowler. He stroked his chin and sighed “Okay. I'll meet you tomorrow, West End, fancy restaurant.”

“Very well,” she nodded. She turned her back to him and addressed the crowd. He did not hear what she was saying and before he could think to listen harder, all of the people were moving down the street. She began walking after them, sliding quickly into the darkness. It occurred to the Magician that he had no idea how to refer to her. She was no succubus, but she wasn't human by any means and he knew that demons did not like being named.

“What should I call you!! Who should I ask for when I arrive?” he called out as she faded from his view.

“Miss Snow! Mr. Constantine they will direct you to Miss Snow!” she called back over her shoulder. She continued to move into the darkness and although all the people who had been in the crowd were still quite visible, she disappeared from view as the sound of her voice diminished into the air.

The Magician had taken her advice. His rumpled trench coat had been replaced by a brand new version. His stained and rank apparel from the night before had replaced by a pair of pressed black trousers and a well starched white shirt. His tie was a deep mahogany silk with small golden flecks in it. The golden flecks called attention to his hair which had been freshly washed and trimmed. His face was free of stubble and when he smiled at the maitre d' his teeth were clean and his breath was fresh. She watched as he was led toward the bar, which she'd reserved for their exclusive use.

She reclined on a modern chaise, her violet dress standing out against the bright green upholstery. The color made her faintly luminescent skin truly glow in the dimness of the vacant bar room. She wore no makeup, her bare skin utterly flawless, her cheeks and lips flushed with the same smoldering glow that was reminiscent of an inferno to come. Her thick spirals were swept up, baring her graceful neck. The Magician saw something about her neck. It seemed as though there were scars of some sort marking the nape. As he continued to evaluate her she finally moved, startling him, an exquisite statue come to life.

“I must admit Mr. Constantine, I am surprised that you came to meet me this afternoon.” The Magician liked her non-purring voice better. It was like music, lilting and happy. He could not help but smile at her; as soon as he did, however, he felt his teeth begin to chatter.

“Why is it so bloody cold when you're around?” He felt the hairs on his arms stand up. “It wasn't cold at all until you started moving. What's that about then?” In truth, he didn't know why he'd come to meet her. It was certainly in his best interests to avoid strange women who chilled him to the bone and waited for him with smokes outside of pubs in the night. She was no succubus, so he was less concerned about his soul being sucked out through his penis, but still, she was not human. She'd admitted to being in Hell and quite a few men had approached her and begun crying for no apparent reason. She was supernaturally lovely, but somehow he did not believe that the men from the night before were overly sensitive admirers of beauty.

“In due time Mr. Constantine. I am glad that you are here. I hope that you understand my appreciation.” She smiled up at him since he was now standing next to the chaise. She stood up all in one motion, gracefully as though her muscles were made of fluid. She was tall, at least 5'9 without the high heeled shoes she wore. The Magician noticed that even her feet were superbly shaped and manicured. He was not a man that generally found feet to be exciting but he felt familiar stirrings below his waist as he followed the line of her instep toward her ankles with his eyes. Her body was incredible. He was no longer surprised that every part of her was so appealing, but it was taking considerable restraint to maintain his composure while in her presence. He still did not know what she was or what she wanted with him and it seemed better that he not fixate on the brutal arch of her back and the way that it flowed into the sumptuous curve of her behind as she walked toward the bar.

“So. I take it that you're not going to kill me here, it'd be a shame to ruin your dress. What is that? Satin?” And stupidly, the Magician reached out to touch her. He was not cold then. All he could feel was heat. It was as though he'd casually dipped his fingers into molten lava. He cried out and she whipped around to face him. He was in agony; her face was less readable. Her mouth curved in a half smile, her eyes squinted at him, watching his expression change. First there was pain, and then there was pleasure. And then there was anger. She was smirking at him and as soon as he realized it, he no longer wanted to make love to her. He wanted to hit her. Common sense said it was stupid to try to hit something that could cause 3rd degree burns with a simple touch. And as the pain further subsided into what could only be described as a post orgasmic tingle, he was secretly glad this had happened. It was the best way to keep his mind clear for whatever she had planned.

“Mr. Constantine, perhaps this will teach you to not touch women who you have not asked permission of?” She sighed, a laughing and mirthful sound in itself, “I hope you do not mind that I asked for a meal to be prepared for us. I was not sure if you had any particular preferences; however, the chef here is amenable to preparing something else if you require it. I have paid a great deal of money to ensure that we are both comfortable as possible during this... business.” She went on “I am very hungry myself. Being here, amongst the truly living awakens the most unique hungers within me. I have heard that the saffron sauce made here is quite exquisite and I have long hungered to taste fresh goat meat agai...”

“What the fuck was that? You nearly burned my bloody hand off! What the FUCK ARE YOU? You'll tell me now or I'm gone!” The absurdity of his statement hit him as it fell from his mouth. He really was not in a position to negotiate anything with this being, but he was hoping for a bit of luck. Stranger things had happened.

“Mr. Constantine what 'that' was, as you put it, was a mistake on your part. Now then. I take it that you are up to eating? Come, sit. We will dine and discuss what is required of us.” Her musical voice softened his anger and brought him a measure of reason. It occurred to him that now that his hand was no longer burning that he felt really hungry, as though he'd just run a marathon. He felt quite good as a matter of fact. Better than he had in years. He sat at the bar as several waiters were setting down a variety of fragrant dishes. The smells of coconut and cumin, saffron and tomato drifted toward him and drew him in. The Messenger and the Magician began to eat, and they continued eating late into the night. The did not speak to each other during this time, because they were both incredibly, astoundingly hungry.

After the waiters brought out their 7th bowl of yogurt sauce and another pot full of rice, the Magician finally spoke.

“You've no intention of answering any questions do you? You know that my stupid bloody curiosity about what you are would draw me in despite my better judgment and now I'm here and there isn't the faintest chance that you're going to solve your mystery. Gah.” He was full now, although he'd heard a waitress inform the being he shared his dinner with that she'd bring out a coconut brulee and a honey lime cheesecake shortly. “You're no demon, at least as far as I can tell, which means I can't count on you being less clever than me and walking into some mental trap. You've got some sort of innate power and I can tell by the sigils tattooed on your neck that you've got some experience with magic. So what is it you want then? I'm not dead yet, you haven't tried to seduce me into anything and you're footing the bill for this lavish dinner. So? What is it that you want?”

The Messenger had quickly consumed the last of the rice with the remnants of the lamb she'd eagerly eaten. She had acquired a taste for souls during her centuries below. Food was a reasonable substitute if there were vast enough quantities and relative peace in which to consume it. It just so happened that to conduct her business with the Magician, she would need to be as nourished as possible. The waitress slid a large slice of cheesecake in front of her and she took a bite, considering the Magician's question.

“You know, I am saddened than I am unable to feel the affects of alcohol. I read the menu here and they've something called a Cinnamon Bellini. It sounds delicious.” He looked at her, annoyed at her avoidance of the question. She raised her hand and said, “as I said before Mr. Constantine, in due time. I am happy to answer your questions once our business is conducted. As to the business itself, I must be fortified by this delicious food before we begin.” She took another bite of her dessert. “It seems to me that you are not threatened by me, despite what you have seen. I do not know if this is an intelligent decision on your part Mr. Constantine, but I am grateful. It makes things much easier.” And she smiled at him again. Her smile was like a light being shone directly into his eyes, as though the sun was really hiding in her mouth and wished to bless him with its warmth for just a moment.

“So does your boyfriend ever get tired of that? That magical sunshiney feeling that you give off? Does that compensate for the cold?” She considered this for a moment while she chewed. It occurred to her that it would be easier to convey the information that she was meant to convey if the Magician was more comfortable with her.

“I have no boyfriend, Mr. Constantine. I was at the mercy of the one you know as Nergal for several hundred years. While I was forced to serve his most base desires, I do not think that he ever noticed a 'sunshiney' feeling. The place we were, the place below? It was very hot. I doubt that the heat of my skin or the warmth that you say that I inspire in you was anything that he ever experienced.” The waitress had heard parts of what she'd said and hesitated while bringing out the freshly caramelized brulee. The Messenger turned to her and spoke softly so that the Magician could not hear. The waitress' eyes glazed over and she smiled broadly. She placed the ramekin in front of the Messenger and nearly floated away. The Magician's eyes widened. “Mr. Constantine, I was summoned by a mortal man who knew my name to deliver a message to you. Although it is not important as to how I became free, I wish to tell you that I do not serve Nergal any longer. I hated him ever since I was delivered into his house and although I hated you at one time for deceiving him, that was merely because his outrage at you was taken out on me.” The Magician took a sip of water. Suddenly, he was sweating profusely. So she was a demon. She was no succubus, but she was a servant of his enemy. He began eying the exits even though he knew it was pointless. The way she made the waitress glide off, happy as a clam was his assurance that she could probably have him gurgling like an infant in a moment.

“So. Some grandstanding bloke summoned you up, bound you and sent you after me? Who is it? One of those pissant magis from Tate? I see now love, listen, just give me the message and I'll be on my way then.” He started to rise from the table and wanting to make a show of his displeasure at finding out that this creature that he'd thought about all night was just another demon, one that had been the whore to a demon that had been doing everything he could to make him miserable for the last 20 years. Now that he thought about it, he really was angry. He was angry with himself for letting it get to this point.

“Mr. Constantine,” she sighed, “I only answered your question truthfully because I cannot speak untruths. It is...unfortunate for me in many ways. I do not know of this 'Tate' that you speak of and I assure you that the message that I must convey to you is not so simple as me speaking it aloud. I must give you the knowledge. This is why I hoped that your mind would be free today. I...” she thought for a moment on how to phrase the information she wanted to convey. “I believe that the message that I am meant to give you will assist you in understanding the origins of the things that have occurred since Ravenscar.” He stopped at that. He knew the origins of Ravenscar. It was sending that girl into hell that sent him right over the edge. The same girl that Nergal had sent after him again. And all of his friends-- his friends they all died. And they were waiting to torment him. His face twisted as he thought about his visits to Hell, and how all of them were waiting for him. She was standing next to him now, perfect and pristine as always, glowing in the shadows of the bar.

“Don't do it. Do not touch me. I don't know what sort of piss poor demon messenger you are, but you've botched it. I don't want your message. I'm leaving. You've failed. And...” he didn't finish because at that precise moment in time her hand was against his face. It may as well have been a hand shaped branding iron, it was so hot. He let out a wail of pain and saw from the corner of his eyes that she'd waved her hand in the direction of the door to the kitchen. No one came out in response to his scream.

She had really hoped that forcing the knowledge into the Magician could be avoided, but if he simply thought her a demon, he probably would no longer be cooperative. In the back of her mind, she wondered if he'd questioned why Nergal would ever find a demon to be novel. Things would go more smoothly if he cooperated, but she was quite powerful and had grown accustomed to things going wrong. When she had first been delivered to Nergal, she'd hoped that her celestial glow would make him treat her with some amount of respect, but of course not. He used her and passed her to his friends and they passed her to lesser demons and so on. She shook her head and looked into the Magician's eyes. He was breathing rapidly and his eyes were filled with tears. She not sure whether the tears were restricted to the pain of his searing flesh or if he was having the reaction that most mortals had when she was near. He inhaled sharply as she placed her other hand on his chest. She could smell the burning silk of his tie.

“There are no sigils on my neck Mr. Constantine. What you saw were tattoos of a sort. An ox. A lion. An eagle. They were given to me by my mother as a reminder.” She focused her power into her hands and reached out with her mind. She had to get this part right, she had to be very precise. She recalled the message that she had taken from the Israeli man that had summoned her and chanted a spell into her being. The smell of burning flesh and hair was distracting, as were the whimpers of the Magician. He'd closed his eyes. “Open your eyes Constantine. Open them!” He attempted to resist her command but found that he did not have the power to do so. The burning pain was making it impossible to focus. He could not think of a spell that would rectify the situation that he found himself in. He could not reach out with his mind to escape the pain because despite the burning, her nearness brought him immeasurable pleasure. Even his years studying transcendental meditation were useless. He just could not think. There was something else too, something that he was missing. What was it about an ox, an eagle and a lion he wondered. Her eyes. Her lion eyes. He could no longer resist her call and he opened his eyes to hers. She was slightly taller than he was in her heels, looking down into his face. The weight of her amber eyes were heavy, as though someone had smashed through his head with a sledgehammer. He began to wail again and then, suddenly, the pain ended.

She still held him, her fingertips covering his heart and his temple. His brain was still not working because the sensation that followed the pain was blissful. He searched her perfect face, her caramel complexion unchanged in any manner. Her dress was not mussed, her hair was not out of place. The only thing that the Magician saw different was that her eyes had changed from amber to brown. His body was trembling with pleasure and as soon as he thought it, he ejaculated in his pants. He was not embarrassed and she seemed to find it mundane.

“Mr. Constantine you should say something.”

“Despite the fact that I was screaming in agony a moment ago, I'm thinking of giving you my mobile number so that we can do this again some time?”

“I see that your mind has not been affected for the worst. Very well. I will stop touching you now.” She stepped back one step and slowly moved her hand over his chest. The fabric of his tie and shirt mended themselves. “It was a very nice tie,” she said as though that explained everything that had just transpired.

“You were in my head,” he said wondrously, still finding it hard to think clearly. He wondered what would have happened if this had happened last night while he was bleary from the ale. He was still trying to grasp, with his mind, what seemed to be traces of her inside of him. “That's like something from Star Trek love.”

“I do not know of this celestial quest of which you speak. I will learn of it soon enough. I have relayed the message to you from the Rabbi. It is his wish to assist you in your journey, as it pertains to locating those who wish to destroy the mortal world. He insists that they are the same people who have bound you to this synchronistic web since Ravenscar. I am now free to...” she thought about it for a moment. A grin spread across her face making it, impossibly, more beautiful. “Be free,” she decided happily. “I am free to pursue whatever it is that I wish to. Perhaps my betrothed will have waited for me? Or perhaps I wish to spend time here in this world. Or perhaps I will both marry my betrothed and learn of this world.” She laughed at the last part, her joy spilling out of her and rushing through the crevices in the floor. The restaurant patrons below could be heard laughing suddenly, joyously.

“Wait, rabbi? What's a rabbi doing summoning a demon to deliver...oh.” His brain was still quite slow, but he was getting back up to speed. When he thought about the rabbi an ancient man appeared in his mind's eye. He was tiny and frail, nearly as dusty as the room that the Magician saw around him. After a few moments, he knew. He knew the place to find those that had been trying to ruin him and he knew their origins. He knew their plan was was to destroy everything and he knew that to get to them, he would have to do things that he did not even want to contemplate.

“Who ever said that I was a demon Mr. Constantine?” The Messenger really liked her dress and did not want to ruin it to prove a point, so she just sat in one of the overstuffed chairs in the bar and regarded him. Six wings perforating her dress would be lamentable. She saw the truth slowly dawn upon him as he looked at her.

“Okaaaaaaay,” he started, “but that doesn't explain everything. What about the cold? And how'd you wind up in hell? And frankly, I've met angels before and none of them have the affect that you do. Not a single one of them is, excuse my crudeness, stacked like you are.” She smiled at him then. She remembered her mother's broad face and her horns, taking comfort from the memory.

“My mother chose to live here among the mortals” she shrugged, as she'd just told him that she really preferred her tea without cream. “She did for many centuries. She was happy. She wore her womans face when she was with them and her true face when she was not. She visited with her Creator often. She was charged to watch over His prophets.”

“C'mon love. You said 'all in due time Mr. Constantine' over and over and now you're being reticent. I'm supposed to believe that your mother was just a nice old good natured cherub? I thought you people couldn't reproduce. And who is your betrothed? And if you're a cherub, why does my skin sizzle when you touch it? And the cold?”

“I am not attempting to be reticent Mr. Constantine.” She gestured nonchalantly, “it has been some time since I was to explain myself.” She drew a breath. “My mother was recalled to her duties beyond His chamber at some point and she decided not to go back. She was banished forever from the gleaming throng. At the time, she was content with her human lover and watching the progress of the prophets. She was not exactly a cherub by the time I arrived. She'd become much more human by then, not having access to the Throne.” She paused, thinking. “I suppose that she reconsidered when her mortal husband aged and died. She made an entreaty the cherub at the garden, I believe that you've met him before yes?” The Magician nodded. The Messenger continued “I'd thought so. I'd heard that you'd met a seraph once, here in England...or wait, it was Paris? That is interesting. I wonder if it was my father. Usually we, the cherubim, and the archangels, are really the only ones that interact with mortals in these days.”

“You're a bloody seraph! Fuck John, you're daft. Of course she's a seraph! She burned the living shit out of your hand with just a tap. That's what seraphim do. So what? You're mum decided she wanted back into Heaven and got it on with one of those 6 winged buggers?” She frowned at him and it was as though the sun had stopped shining. He wanted to cry. He repressed the sobs that had started in his chest. He tried again feebly, “I mean, you're half seraph?”

“Yes. My other parent was a seraph. He was... distanced from the Throne at the time I was conceived. He has since returned to his former glory, his ardor burning brightly.” She said the last with some bitterness and again, the Magician felt incredibly sad. He felt as though something had withered within him and died. “It was his attempt to betroth me to Duma in Hell that brought the attention of your enemy. The seraph that created me wished to rehabilitate both of us to a point that we could enter His kingdom. Duma was uninterested in such matters and I had no knowledge of what I was missing. Your enemy moved against my betrothed even as I was transported to his horrid chambers. I was secreted away so that Duma could not find me, even while I was passed around to Nergal's minions.” Her voice was distant at this point and the warmth within her cheeks had dissipated. “Do you have any more questions Mr. Constantine? Or may I go about my life?”

“How did you escape Nergal?” He was sullen now. The manic joy he'd felt at her happiness had disappeared, leaving him with a quickly cooling deposit in the front of his new trousers. He could imagine why something like Nergal would find it incredibly gratifying to abuse someone like the woman before him. Despite her somewhat flawed origins, she was still perfect; a glowing reflection of His creation. Nergal would have loved nothing more that to desecrate that perfection in all ways possible. Even if he had lost interest in her directly, he would have wanted to keep her around as a reminder of his power.

“Mr. Constantine,” she smiled again at last, wryly this time, “if I share that tale, what will I share with you the next time I see you?” He perked up at her suggestion that they would see each other again. She stood up and smoothed her dress down, which was unnecessary. With the new movement, the cold began to creep up his spine. He reacted visibly. “It is an odd thing, being neither one thing nor another. The cherubs exist in the cosmos, guarding time, reality, the stars. They used to anyway. Of necessity, they are quite cold. It protects against things like star fire. I have not quite mastered my abilities in this mortal realm yet. I was just getting used to them when I was taken. I was just a girl then.” She looked thoughtful for a moment and then cocked her head to the side and looked at him. “Mr. Constantine, for many years, I was subjected to brutalities that your mind could not contemplate without breaking. I was very angry with you, but I am at peace now. I would not have such peace if it were not for a confluence of events that involved you and your travels in to my prison.”

“You owe me one?” ventured the Magician, his mood elevating slightly.

“I would not take it that far Mr. Constantine; however, if you require the type of help that I can offer...” she trailed off, shrugging her elegant shoulders. She reached into her hair and removed something. Her hair came cascading down around her face and neck. He took a sharp breath, realizing that quite accidentally, he had an erection again. She looked at him, her smirk becoming a laugh. He could not help it. He began laughing as well. He laughed until his stomach hurt and there were tears in his eyes. When he went to wipe his eyes, she was gone.

 

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October 2010

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