Fallen Angels Chapter 31-35
Yes, more chapters. And now everyone is caught up to my notebook again.
Chapter 31: A Proper Claiming
Standing at the bedroom window, Abel stared out over the landscape. It had been a month since Sephiroth had retrieved hm from the Vatican, and the man’s attitude towards him hadn’t changed. About the only thing that had changed was that Sephiroth chose what clothes he was permitted to wear, but he could honestly say that was no different from the single style of clerical robes he had worn at the Vatican.
But clothes alone are not a claim, Abel sighed, one hand drifting up to stroke the bare skin of his neck. He still felt like he was drifting at times, claimless and masterless. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation and one that drove him to seek out Sephiroth for a more physical claiming to soothe the craving. Sephiroth never asked him why he appeared needy and clingy at times, and Abel couldn’t bring himself to speak of it. Besides, if Sephiroth was serious about his claim, he would figure it out without Abel telling him.
The door to the outer room opened and closed before quiet footsteps echoed through the room. Abel didn’t turn away from the window, knowing it could only be one of the three rulers of the Northern Kingdom. No one else would enter the rooms without one of the three with them, not even the strange Turks.
"You are quiet today," remarked Sephiroth, moving to wrap his arms around Abel’s waist from behind. Abel let his eyes drift shut as he leaned back into that strong body, taking comfort in the solid feel of the other silver haired man.
"Just thinking," he murmured, letting the arms around his waist chase the drifting feeling away slightly with the possessiveness.
That got an absent hum from Sephiroth as he pressed a kiss to Abel’s head. "I have something for you."
Abel opened his eyes as Sephiroth stepped away from him only to catch Abel’s wrist, and Abel let himself be pulled into the sitting room where a large velvet box rested on the side table. He watched with wide eyes as Sephiroth opened the box to reveal a brilliant silver collar decorated with ornate scroll work along its surface. It looked almost like a solid piece of metal, but Abel could just pick out the small catch and the hinge, both hidden among the decorations.
Picking it up, Sephiroth turned it to show two round depressions in the metal, outlined in gold that seemed to swirl between the two. "This is mithryl, one of the strongest metals on Gaia. These two are for materia which you will be trained to use. The ones you will normally have equipped will be a Mastered Restore and a Mastered All."
"What will that do?" Abel had heard of others talking about materia, the strange crystalline spheres that did various things depending on which one was equipped. He reached out to run almost reverent fingers over the cool metal. It was slick like glass but had a slightly slippery feel to it as if there was a faint coating of oil.
"The Restore will heal you, your allies or whomever you target," explained Sephiroth, pulling two crystals out of his pocket to point to them. He gestured to the deep purple crystal. "With the All linked to it, the Restore will heal everyone in the targeted group."
Sephiroth smirked as he opened the collar and Abel continued staring at him in a mix of disbelief and fragile hope as the cool metal closed around his neck. The soft click of the collar latching banished the drifting feeling completely, and Sephiroth hooked a finger under the collar, pulling Abel into his arms. With a soft moan, Abel melted against Sephiroth as he was kissed, and he silently prayed that this man would hold him and his leash forever.
Chapter 32: Easy Acceptance
After a few minutes, Sephiroth reluctantly pulled away from the kiss, smiling at the faint whimpers that spilled from Abel. He brushed a hand over Abel’s hair, soothing him with soft hushing noises, and Abel opened pale blue eyes to stare at him.
"Now that you are properly claimed, you will accompany me everywhere, including Court," Sephiroth remarked, running a finger along the edge of the collar and getting a shiver from Abel. "I require your knowledge of this world to help us deal with the diplomats without causing an international incident."
A faint blush stained Abel’s cheeks again, making him appear so much younger. "Where will I sit in Court? Zack and Cloud stand at your shoulders."
"You will sit at my feet, enhancing the image of a plaything," the Silver General stated, stepping back to snag Abel’s hand. "There is a pillow there for your comfort." He started out of the room, tugging Abel after him, and a small smile curled his lips as Abel obediently followed. It had taken almost the entire month for the jewelers to make the collar after Sephiroth had delivered enough mithryl to them for its construction, the metal having been donated by the other Firsts who had been saved further harm by Abel’s actions against the Zoloms. However, he could hardly argue with the results, both in the formation of the collar and how accepting Abel was of it.
They wandered down the hallways towards the throne room, and Sephiroth noticed the curious glances from his SOLDIERs while the local nobles seemed to take the sight of Abel in a collar in stride. Interesting. He would have to speak with someone to discover the reason behind the easy acceptance. The acceptance of same sex relationships was one thing, but for someone to be openly wearing a collar of ownership and just as easily accepted as the norm was highly unusual in his experience. On Gaia, there would be some unusual looks and sly comments, depending on the person. Here, the reaction was more of a casual indifference, and that made him wonder.
Zack and Cloud met them in the small antechamber where they could discuss things before entering the throne room. They had identical looks of concern on their faces as Zack held a paper in his hand.
"We’ve got an interesting list today," remarked his SiC. "Apparently everyone wants to talk to you today."
"The mayor and council of Brundigal are here along with representatives from the Vatican, Albion and the Empire," added Cloud as Zack held out the list of names.
Sephiroth took the list and held it so Abel could read it as well. "Do you know any of these people?"
"The mayor and council, no," confessed Abel, his eyes a bit wide. Sephiroth was rather surprised himself at the confession since it indicated he knew the others mentioned. The Vatican representatives wouldn’t be surprising as Abel has resided there for many years, but the others were a surprise. "Brother Petros and Sister Paula are from the Department of the Inquisition, known for their fighting ability and their persecution of anyone not human. Viscountess Astharoche Asran is both an Imperial Investigator and a diplomat, answerable only to the Empress. Count Virgil Walsh is the one who oversees the Ghetto, the Methuselah factories that produce Albion’s Lost Technology and give it the political and scientific edge it has over the other countries."
Sephiroth hummed as he looked over the list again. "Do any of these know about your full abilities?"
Abel bit his lip, uncertainty on his face. "Walsh I know by reputation only, and I doubt he knows even my name. Astha, despite being my tovarash, is ignorant and believes me to be fully human, and I believe Brother Petros and Sister Paula to be equally ignorant or the entire Vatican would have witnessed their hunt of me."
With a nod, Sephiroth pulled a pen out of his pocket as he numbered the names. He had finally placed the town of Brundigal and was gambling that whatever they wanted was positive. "Bring Walsh in first, then the Viscountess followed by the Inquisition. Only when they have all spoken will the mayor and the council speak." A smirk curled his lips. "And they will be the very last so all will hear what they have to say."
Zack nodded and took the list back. "Right. I’ll let the herald know before joining you.’
He brushed a quick kiss across Cloud’s cheek before leaving, and Sephiroth smiled at them. He certainly was blessed with good friends who were willing to trust him beyond his role as their commander. It was something he had never imagined possessing when he was in Hojo’s lab, but now he wondered how he could ever live without it.
He rested a hand on Abel’s lower back. "Come. It is time for Court to start."
Chapter 33: Challenge from the Empire
Curling his legs next to him, Abel folded his arms on Sephiroth’s thighs before resting his cheek on them, content to watch the various petitioners bring their problems to his king. The cushion under him was velvet and very plush without being uncomfortable or restricting if he needed to move for whatever reason. He was a bit nervous about seeing Astha again, considering he hadn’t spoken to her even by letter in a few months, and he hoped that his new life wouldn’t turn her against him. He wasn’t sure how she would react to the claim Sephiroth had on him, and that did scare him. Unlike the others at the Vatican, Astha’s opinion did matter to him in a surprising way.
Finally, Count Virgil Walsh was announced, and Abel glanced at the blond Methuselah that entered. The fact he was a Methuselah was a surprise to Abel, but he figured it made sense for the person to be in charge of the Ghetto to be a Methuselah. How else would they be able to understand the needs of the ones that lived there if they were human? The young noble knelt and presented his greetings from Queen Esther Blanchette before polite words were exchanged between the Count and Sephiroth. Then Walsh announced he was there to open trade agreements between Albion and the Northern Kingdoms as they were both allies of the Vatican. A few quiet murmurs in Wutainese from Zack, and Sephiroth invited Walsh to remain as their guest in the palace while they discussed the offered agreement.
Abel felt the nervous flutter in his stomach increase as the herald stepped forward again. "Announcing Astharoche Asran, Viscountess of Odessa, Duchess of Kieve, and diplomatic envoy for Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress Augusta Vradica of the Methuselah Empire."
Clad in dark blue wool trimmed in silver thread, Astha marched down the carpet, her head held high and the Spear of Gae Bolg held in one hand. She was every inch the diplomatic warrior, and whispers echoed through the room about her. Walsh, while a Methuselah, had seemed softer, almost all diplomat. Astha was a warrior first and a diplomat by necessity, and that distinction showed in her stride.
Smoothly kneeling, Astha lay her Sear on the floor next to her and bowed her head. "I bring greetings from the Eternal Mother, Empress Augusta Vradica, and also the hopes of open ing trade negotiations between our countries."
"Will this interfere with any possible trade with Albion?" Sephiroth inquired, brushing his fingers over Abel’s hair and getting a soft purr as Abel automatically leaned into the caress. That felt nice and soothing.
"No, Your Majesty, they should not interfere at all," replied Astha, and Abel jerked a bit guiltily, his purr stuttering to a halt.
That got a hum from Sephiroth. "Then we invite you to remain as our guest while negotiations commence."
"I thank you, Your Majesty," Astha stated, but instead of rising, she remained kneeling before them. Abel faintly frowned in confusion. What was she doing?
Apparently, Sephiroth wondered the same thing. "Was there something further the Empire required of us, Viscountess?"
Raising her head, Astha fixed Sephiroth with an unreadable expression. "The Empire, no, but there is a bit of personal business I have with you that has no connection to the Empire or the Eternal Mother."
A cold chill raced down Abel’s spine as Astha rose to her feet, and pointed the Spear at Sephiroth. "I, Astharoche Asran, Viscountess of Odessa and Duchess of Kieve, do hereby challenge Sephiroth the Angel, King of the Northern Kingdom, for the freedom of Abel Nightroad."
Startled gasps echoed through the room followed by hushed murmurs, but Astha stood there like a statue as she continued to stare at Sephiroth. Abel snuck a quick glance up at the other silver haired man to find that his expression was unreadable as ever.
"Why should I accept this challenge?" Sephiroth inquired, raising a curious brow. "After all, I chased him down and brought him back to my side."
"Yet you’re not willing to fight for him? If that is the case, I am well within my rights to remove my tovarash from your presence and your kingdom," she drawled, a small smirk curling her lips.
Strong fingers curled through Abel’s hair, and he looked up at Sephiroth. "Is this true, Abel?"
It wasn’t an accusation so much as a clarification. "Yes, sir. That is the Rule of Engagement in the Empire."
"But this isn’t the Empire," countered Sephiroth, stroking Abel’s hair. "Why should I accept this challenge?"
"If you don’t, you’ll loose power at the negotiation table and any further deals with the Empire will be at their advantage," Abel said, wishing Astha hadn’t started this. "It may be personal, but everyone will know that you weren’t strong enough to accept the challenge." He looked up at Sephiroth with pleading eyes. "Please don’t kill her.’
"Very well, Viscountess, I accept your challenge, and our match will take place after Court is finished," Sephiroth announced, still holding Abel’s eyes. Abel managed a tentative smile, and Sephiroth returned it before shifting his attention back to Astha. "Will that be acceptable for your sense of propriety?"
Closing his eyes, Abel rested his head on Sephiroth’s thigh as he prayed to any god that would listen that this wouldn’t end in tragedy
Chapter 34: More Complications
Running his fingers through Abel’s hair, Sephiroth wondered if this duel was the Empress’ way of testing his resolve when it came to Abel. If it was, then he would show her that he was a force to be reckoned with when it came to protecting what was his.
"Then I shall meet you on the field of honor after your Court," Announced Asran, lowering her spear before spinning on her heel to march down the carpet towards the doors out.
A soft noise from Abel caught his attention, and Sephiroth looked down to find Abel staring at the floor. "I’m sorry I’m such trouble."
Sephiroth gently tipped Abel’s face up to look into those miserable blue eyes. "You are not troublesome. I had been expecting something from the Empress to test my resolve about you."
That got a startled look from Abel before it slid into a slightly frustrated expression. "Why can’t she just be happy for me?"
"Because she cares for you,, and we all do silly things to make sure the people we love are all right," remarked Zack with his usual friendly grin. Shaking his head at the logic, Abel settled against Sephiroth again, and the silver ruler nodded to the herald to announce the next petitioners.
"Brother Petros and Sister Paula of the Vatican’s Department of the Inquisition," announced the man, and murmurs that were both fearful and curious rippled through the room, as every head turned to watch the Inquisition’s arrival.
The two figures that entered raised more than a few eyebrows at their appearance. Brother Petros was a large, solid wall in the armor and crimson tabard with chin length blue hair and a very impressive lance in his hands. Sister Paula was the one that Sephiroth found himself staring at, not because of the armor she wore or the double crescent blades she carried, but because the last time he had seen her, she had been opening a secret passage to let him and Abel escape from the Vatican. He made a mental note to speak to Abel about her later.
"I bring greetings from the Vatican to His Majesty," began Petros, raising his head slightly to look at those on the dias after the two had knelt.
"What can we do for our friends at the Vatican today?" Sephiroth inquired, settling back in his chair.
"Officially, I am here to request permission to allow a small parish to be established in your kingdom so the Vatican’s soldiers will always be ready to assist you and your people whenever the need arose," Petros stated, his announcement receiving a few curious murmurs.
The way the request had been worded stirred Sephiroth’s curiosity. "And unofficially?"
Carefully reaching into a pouch on his hip, Petros removed a filled hypodermic needle and placed it on the floor before him. I am to incapacitate and kidnap the former priest known as Abel Nightroad, returning him to the Vatican and the Cardinal that he was stolen from."
That announcement was met by furious protests that exploded through the room. Many were demanding why such a request was made while others were threatening Petros with bodily harm should he try such a thing. Sephiroth was pleased that so many of his subjects were willing to champion Abel if it was needed. A bit of movement caught his eye, and he glanced over to find Asran moving a bit closer to the dias, apparently to protect Abel as well.
After a few minutes, Sephiroth held up a hand, and the noise died. "Why are you telling us this instead of just attempting it?"
"Because I owe Abel Nightroad a Life Debt." Petros’ voice was firm and unwavering in his explanation. "I promised my Lord God that I would never deliberately harm him outside of the sparring ring that very night, and I intend to keep that promise."
Opaline eyes watched the man, even more curious now. "Some would argue that he is not safe here, no matter what our intentions are."
Slowly, Petros rose to his feet, his lance in his hand. "In the time I have known Abel Nightroad, he has never appeared as comfortable in his own skin as he does now. Yes, he is collared like a pet or a slave, but he belongs here where he is happy."
For a few minutes, silence reigned as Sephiroth thought about this strange revelation. He had noticed Abel settling a bit over the last month, but he hadn’t realized that it had been so visible to someone who had so little contact with Abel. Finally, Sephiroth rose to his feet as Abel moved just enough to sit up, and the Silver General nodded at Petros. "We invite you both to be our guests to discuss your proposed parish further."
Petros knelt again, his head bowed in respect. "My thanks, Your Majesty."
"Perhaps some time during your visit, you might honor us with a demonstration of your skills," Sephiroth invited as both Inquisition members rose to their feet.
An appreciative smile appeared on both faces. "I believe that can be arranged," Petros agreed before he and Paula bowed and withdrew, leaving the syringe on the floor.
Resuming his seat, Sephiroth gestured for Zack to retrieve it. They would have to figure out what it was Cardinal Sforza sent, and how to dispose of it without harming anything or anyone. They would talk in depth later about Sforza’s actions and decide on what countermeasures to take. Shaking his head at his own thoughts, Sephiroth wondered how one person could cause so much trouble and why they would abuse their power. He hoped drastic measures wouldn’t have to be taken.
For Abel’s sake.
Chapter 35: Crowning an Angel
Abel stared after Petros, his thought whirling. When had he saved the Knight of Destruction’s life? The only mission they had reluctantly been together on was the near disastrous Carthago mission, and that partnership had been out of necessity once the Rosen Kruenz Order had hijacked the Inquisitions weapons. He shifted back to rest his head on Sephiroth’s leg again and tried not to think about it. He would ask Petros about this Life Debt later, after the duel with Astha was over.
"Mayor Siegfried and the Council of the Village of Brundigal," announced the herald, drawing Abel’s attention along with everyone else in the room. Abel realized that the group looked familiar, but he couldn’t place where he had seen them before.
The group arranged itself so the mayor and a young girl holding a metal circle were at the center. The mayor smiled as he looked around. "Your Majesty, distinguished peers of the realm, on behalf of the Village of Brundigal, we thank you for this opportunity to acknowledge a hero who saved us from a rogue Methuselah."
In a flash, Abel realized where he had seen them before and felt his blood run cold. Brundigal had been the village where he had stopped the Methuselah only to run back to the Vatican instead of facing Sephiroth’s anger at his secret. He curled closer to Sephiroth, trying to find some bit of comfort and safety from his master’s presence. A hand stroked his hair, calm and possessive in its touch, and he managed to relax a bit as he watched the people from Brundigal with a wary expression.
"We were unaware that the Methuselah was in our village or even what his plans were," continued the mayor, his attention focused on Sephiroth but his words were addressed to everyone. "That night, as families settled down for dinner, screams echoed through the night. Rushing from our homes, we found the Methuselah balanced on top of the fountain located in the center of the square while young Hilda’s mother in his arms."
Gasps echoed around the room, and Abel flinched at the sound before settling again. He didn’t need to be told what happened next, knowing all too well what had transpired. He had saved the woman, defeated the rogue, and then ran to keep any of the villagers from turning against him because he was different.
"There was nothing any of us could do to reach her before the rogue monster killed her," remarked the mayor, letting the noises die again. "We believed her lost to us until a miracle appeared in the form of Father Abel Nightroad. He stepped forward to challenge the Methuselah for Brigid, and he managed to catch her when she was thrown at him. Before the Methuselah could flee into the night to cause more mischief, Father Abel Nightroad revealed that he was one of Heaven’s Angels sent to protect us, spreading wings of ebony feathers and summoning Death’s won scythe to his hand."
Now the gasps and mutters were louder, and Abel could feel their eyes turning his way. He wanted to scream at them that he was normal, that he wasn’t a monster, and to leave him alone before bolting from the room. The only thing that was keeping him where he was next to Sephiroth was the soothing hand on his hair, a subtle reminder that he didn’t have permission to leave.
"The Methuselah threatened an group of children that had followed their parents out into the night, trying to bargain his freedom for their lives. That only served to infuriate the angel, and he easily dispatched the Methuselah," the mayor stated, and cheers when up around the room. The mayor held up his hands for silence and slowly the noise died again. "The angel, when he noticed all of us were watching, dismissed his weapon back to Death’s hand and flew off as quickly as his wings could carry him. It was apparent that he was not use to people thanking him - why else would he disguise himself as a simple priest if he was - we knew that the only way we could express our gratitude was in Your Majesty’s Court where all would hear the tale and know his brave actions."
Sephiroth sat back in his chair, his hand never leaving Abel’s head. "All of this happened nearly two months ago. Why have you decided on now to approach the Court?"
One of the council stepped forward, a slender man who fidgeted with his fingers. "Because, Your Majesty, we couldn’t decide what would be a good tribute for an angel at first, and once we decided, it took a bit to make it perfect for him."
Smiling, little Hilda approached the throne and held out the silver circle to Abel. He was surprised to see that it had been created to look like a pair of outstretched wings with each feather intricately detailed down to the barbs along the shafts. Sprinkled among the feathers like drops of water were small diamonds that threw light back in an impressive array of color.
"Thank you for saving my mommy, Mr. Angel," Hilda said, fidgeting slightly with the diadem. "We thought about making you a torq like the Old Ones did, but since you cover your neck, we agreed on this."
Unsure, Abel glanced up at Sephiroth who nodded and removed his hand from the silver hair. Turning back to Hilda, he managed a small, hesitant smile before bowing his head. There was a rustle of fabric before the diadem was placed on his head. Then tiny arms were around his neck as Hilda threw herself at him, and he automatically wrapped his arms around her for safety.
"Thanks, Mr. Angel," she whispered in his ear before pressing a kiss to his cheek. Then she giggled and ran back to shyly hide behind the mayor. Abel offered another hesitant smile before it fell from his face as he tried to figure out what to do now. No one had ever thanked him like this before, and he wasn’t quite sure if he was suppose to do something more.
The sound of a pair of hands slowly clapping startled him, and Abel glanced up to find Petros standing on the edge of the floor, pounding his hands together. A few seconds later, Paula and Astha joined him, adding their own applause to his before it quickly spread. Within moments, the entire Court was wildly applauding and cheering Abel’s actions. Blushing, he ducked his head, hiding behind his hair as he accepted the acknowledgment of his actions for the first time in his life.