Books in the Third Throne Series
THE THIRD THRONE:
ANGEL OF VENGEANCE (Book 3)
When a dangerous drug lord escapes from the Realm of Nightmares in Hell, he finds a way to raise his former gang members from the dead in an effort to seek revenge against his enemies. Anjali must hunt the prisoners and drag them back to Hell. She will enlist the help of a handsome mortal who has more knowledge of her world than he should. Together, they will try to stop a war that could obliterate an entire city.
Balthazar, the Angel of Vengeance, has suffered at the hands of Lucifer and the other Predznak for centuries. He blames the absence of his Master, Anjali, for his pain. He made a promise long ago to kill his loathsome master. Hatred and anger cloud his mind and his only salvation may come from the very person he is desperate to kill.
Can Anjali protect herself from Balthazar’s need for retribution, while keeping a horde of rotting corpses from causing chaos in the streets? Can she unlock the mystery surrounding the unusual appearance of the deadly creatures?
The Third Throne: Angel of Vengeance is the third installment in the award winning Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance series.
Please note that this book is intended for Mature Readers due to violence, sexual encounters, multiple romantic entanglements, and foul language.
Rated 5 Stars - Review by Jennifer Kost, Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team - "The 1st book gives us the story of Anjali herself, book 2 tells the story of Alazar, this book follows Balthazar, the Angel of Vengeance.
What is more dangerous than a crazed drug lord? How about a crazed drug lord that has escaped from Hell itself, working to raise his former gang members from the dead, and exact revenge on his enemies in the mortal realm.
Anjali has a monumental task to find and regain the trust of her angels, but now she must also hunt down Hell's escapees and return them. She cannot do it all on her own, now matter how powerful she may be, and seeks the help of a mortal.
While Anjali is distracted with her current task, Balthazar's anger only continues to grow and fester. He can think of nothing but retribution (ie: vengeance) for all of his past suffering at the hands of Lucifer and the Predznak.
Can Anjali complete her task and protect herself from Balthazar at the same time? Will she be able to convince him to join her in their shared destiny or is Balthazar's hatred to great?
I really enjoy this entire series. The characters are so developed, complex, and well integrated. The plot is full of twists and turns, and I really appreciate non-predictable storylines.
The entire series pulls deeper and darker emotions than many other books I read. While I am reading I feel anger, sorrow, sadness, etc... Many people only want to read happy books, but that isn't what living life looks like. As fully developed humans, we are meant to feel the good as well as the bad. I, along with every other person I know, have stress and mild conflict in my life. I am very fortunate to not have deep sorrow or pain. By experiencing these emotions through literature, I truly believe I develop more as a person. The story told here is obviously fiction, but is well written to bring real emotions to the reader.
Thank you for helping me become a better person..."
Rated 5 Stars - by Amazon Customer - "Great series! Really falling for Anjali - strong character who cares - and kicks ass! Can't wait to see how she evolves! Good balance of magic, theological speculation, action and sex. Tabitha creates a mythology for heaven and hell which resonates - enjoy the ride! I will!"
Rated 5 Stars - by Tome Tender Book Blog -"Tabitha Barret’s The Third Throne: Angel of Vengeance is another devilishly brilliant tale in the Third Throne series. Ms. Barret doesn’t just plot out her tale, write it down and flesh it out, she has created a world filled with chaos, and does NOT scrimp on details are character development. You want characters that live and breathe? You want to see the good side of beings we think of as bad? Hades, Lucifer and even Anjali have humane sides, they care, love, have and just “feel” and that is what helps draw me in to Tabitha Barret’s tales. This isn’t a spiritual read, but it does tell the purpose of having dark angels, and it all starts with humans being given free choice, the ability to decide between good and evil, so there must be temptations to overcome. From page one, Tabitha Barret takes us on a journey the through Hell and back, literally and I for one am going to watch how I use my freedom of choice!"
Excerpt from The Third Throne: Angel of Vengeance
Anjali arrived in the parking lot of the Wall Penitentiary and tried to get her bearings. The large white concrete building didn’t look like a prison until the large imposing gates on the side of the parking lot came into view. There were a few guards stationed at what looked like the entrance to the administrative offices in the front, but the show of force on the prison entrance was impressive. Tall, sturdy fences wrapped in barbed wire adorned the side entrance and were monitored by a guard tower a few feet above it. Uniformed officers with rifles and side arms were busy patrolling the gates and keeping a watchful eye on the visitors coming in and out of the building.
Anjali was grateful that that Sebastian had quickly given her the details and location of Jericho’s death. He normally enjoyed ignoring her for as long as possible and playing games for information, but as soon as she had said Jericho’s name, Sebastian turned over every last detail that he was privy to. Death by hanging was a rare form of punish which Jericho had specifically requested, though she hadn’t been able to figure out why. She hadn’t gotten too far into her assessment of the creep to truly break his will and make him cry like the other prisoners in the Realm of Nightmares.
Donning her mortal attire, jeans, a black T-shirt with a Punisher logo and her brown hiking boots, she decided to gain access to the Administrative Building, claiming that she was a relative looking for information on Jericho. If that failed to gain her entrance to the building, she was prepared to flirt with one of the guards and ask him about Jericho’s hanging. She needed to know if anything strange had happened during his life or death to make him want to come back again so quickly.
Walking through the parking lot, she was startled by shrieking sirens that echoed through the paved lot. She shook off the defending sound of the air raid siren and looked up to see a swarm of people wearing office attire running in terror from the building. Her heart sank as she thought about the reason for their fear. Jericho had returned home.
The guards at the front of the building herded the screaming workers away from the building as the Special Operations Response Team vehicles rolled up to both entrances. Anjali admired their efficiency, having witnessed riots in the Hell before. Seeing the SORT team’s weapons and riot shields sent the workers into a frenzy as they pushed each other in an effort to escape the impending gunfire. She waited until the SORT teams entered the building, brushing past the civilians. Using the chaos as cover, she slipped past the guards and made her way into the building.
There was a flurry of motion in the lobby as officers directed the masses of people out the doors, yelling for them to remain calm.
Anjali rolled her eyes. A mass murderer had returned with a killing vendetta. Remaining calm was not a priority. Running as fast as possible was more advisable.
Sliding against the walls to avoid the panicked workers, Anjali made her way around the edges of the lobby. She overheard yelling on the officers’ walkie-talkies and radios. There was talk of a large unarmed intruder making his way up to the sixth floor.
Anjali spotted a large staircase to her left and carefully dodged a group of screaming women to reach it. As her foot hit the first step, the sound of gunfire erupted through the walkies and above her on the staircase.
“Damn it, bullets are only going to make him madder,” she growled. They might hinder the mobility of the body Jericho had inhabited, but it wouldn’t kill him. Jericho’s soul needed to be removed from the host mortal before he could be stopped. It saddened her to know that the poor mortal he had hijacked wouldn’t survive once Jericho was removed. The mortal’s body would be filled with bullet holes.
Maneuvering up the stairs, Anjali ducked around an officer yelling at her to evacuate the building. He tried to grab her arm, but she darted up the stairs before he could catch her.
“I left my purse in my office, I’ll be right back,” she yelled to the officer.
More gunfire and what sounded like a bubble wrap popping had Anjali sprinting up the stairs two at a time. Depending on how well trained the SORT team was at handling an escaped prisoner of Hell, she was going to need backup.
She opened her mind to Derick and called to him. I need you. The prison is under attack. It has to be Jericho. Bring Alazar.
Derick acknowledged her, but Anjali couldn’t reply to him. She was too shocked to speak when she found the source of the popping noise. The stairwell on the fourth floor was lined with dead bodies. Civilians and tactical officers were lying motionless on the ground. The civilians looked like they had died quickly from wrenched necks or shattered bones. The tactical officers hadn’t been so lucky. They had been ripped apart by some kind of wild animal. Arms and heads were everywhere, some still holding guns. It took a moment for Anjali to process the carnage. How could a soul kill this many people in a matter of minutes? She quickly looked around for survivors, but knew better. Jericho wouldn’t leave anyone alive.
Swallowing back bile, she tried not be sickened by the sight. She had seen terrible things done by the prisoners in Hell, and had terrible things done to her, but the irrational violence used against the mortals overwhelmed her. Jericho knew no bounds and needed to be put down permanently.
Derick and Alazar appeared in the parking lot and headed toward the Administration Building. They were blocked by officers forming a perimeter around the building and parking lot.
Alazar looked around trying to decide the best course of action. Anjali needed him to help contain the situation, and not kill anyone in his path. He needed to remember that he was there to assist Anjali, not tempt the sea of mortals gawking at the building to commit murder or suicide. The urge to tempt them was overwhelming as fear opened their minds to such a suggestion, but he pushed away the need to tempt. He, ironically, was there to save people.
“Shouldn’t we join Anjali?” Derick asked as he followed Alazar through the growing crowd being ushered behind the police barriers.
Alazar shook his head. “She’ll call if she needs help. She wants us here because she can’t be in two places at once.” He stopped when he saw the prison yard filled with orange jumpsuits. “Shit.”
Derick turned and saw the reason for Alazar’s perturbed look. Hundreds of prisoners were running from multiple exits into the large fenced in area used for exercising. They were slamming themselves against the high fences, trying to knock them down or climb them.
Derick was startled when warning shots were fired in the air from the guard tower. The guards were trying to maintain order from a distance, but the prisoners continued their escape plans.
“Jericho’s using the other prisoners as a distraction,” Derick whispered nervously.
Alazar chuckled darkly. “That’s his favorite thing to do. He makes you look one way while he’s running in the opposite direction. I hate when the escaped souls are smart. We are definitely going to need Vaughn.”
“They are going to tear down those fences and I doubt they have enough guards to stop them all. What can we do?” Derick asked as he watched the guards swarming the fences and threatening to shoot anyone who touched the fence.
Alazar knew a mortal prison riot wasn’t his problem, but he didn’t like the idea of murderers running free in the streets. “I’m going to buy the guards some time and thin the herd a little. You stay here and keep out of trouble. Stay in contact with Anjali to see if she needs anything. If bullets start flying, leave. Anjali will be pissed at me if you are full of holes.”
Alazar disappeared before Derick could reply. He reappeared inside the fences along the wall of the prison. He ignored the prisoners trying to escape and focused on the violent prisoners who had gathered in the middle of the yard. They were more interested in killing one another than worrying about escaping. There were plenty of blood vendettas that needed to be settled.
Looking around, Alazar recognized a couple of the prisoners and swore. He had personally tempted at least five of the inmates. Though he no longer enjoyed pushing people beyond their breaking point, he knew it was the only way to keep things from turning into a bloodbath when the riot guards arrived. They would be completely outnumbered, even with tear gas and weapons. He reminded himself that most of these guys were Hell-bound and that he shouldn’t feel bad about sending them there a little earlier than scheduled. It could save a few lives if he played things right.
Alazar ducked and weaved through the fists and splattering blood and entered the middle of an expanding mosh pit where the prisoners were kicking and punching anyone around them. He grabbed as many prisoners as possible and took possession of their eyes. He showed them the forest, the beach, or the mountains and told them how easy it would be to find peace.
Derick was mad that Alazar had left him in the parking lot and told him to go stand where it was safe. He was capable of more than just relaying messages. He ran to the fence to make sure that Alazar was safe. He watched Alazar tempt one prisoner at a time just by looking at them. The prisoners he’d tempted quickly found inventive ways of committing suicide. He’d never witnessed Alazar tempt before. He had a newfound respect for the angel.
Derick quickly conveyed what he was seeing to Anjali. Alazar is eliminating the violent prisoners. The guards are slowly entering the courtyard in riot gear. They are going to be majorly confused about the self-inflicted suicides since these guys just broke out of prison, but it should help them regain order.
Good, since I have bigger problems here, she replied.
Anjali quickly entered the sixth floor hallway, and was met with more carnage. The smell and sting of tear gas let her know that she was getting closer to Jericho.
Gunfire rang out in a room to her left. She deftly stepped over the piles of tactical officers and guards and carefully approached the room. Just as she reached to open the door, wood and glass exploded into the hallway and a black blur flew in front of her face, smashing into the wall next to her. A tactical guard slid to the floor and slumped over. There was no way that the man had survived the impact.
A roar to her left made her jump back just before three more flak jacket-clad officers formed a pile on top of the first officer.
She carefully looked around the corner of what remained of the door jam and saw a large, disheveled figure staring at a man dressed in a dark police uniform. The officer held his hands held out defensively in front of him.
“I was doing my job, Jericho. You have to understand. The court sentenced you. I had no choice but to carry out your sentence. Trust me; I wanted you out of my facility. I would have transferred you if I could have,” the uniformed man babbled, trying to save himself. Anjali assumed that he was in charge of the prison.
Taking in the sight of the towering man in front of the officer, something seemed off. Jericho had been hanged in an orange jumpsuit, which his soul wore upon entering Hell. He also had a ligature mark around his neck from the hanging. The enormous man standing with his back to her had both a jumpsuit and rope marks, but he was covered in dirt clumps and grass. His jumpsuit was blackened as if he’d been thrown into a BBQ pit. The strangest thing was the smell. He didn’t smell like cinder and smoke like the inhabitants of Hell, but like rotting flesh. She wondered who in the world Jericho had possessed.
“Like I give a shit?” Jericho sneered. His voice was garbled and thick as if it hadn’t been used in a long time.
He reached over the desk and grabbed the officer by the neck.
“Enough, Jericho. It’s time to go back to where you belong,” Anjali stated. She watched the hulking mountain turn to face her, but she wasn’t prepared for what she saw.
The man facing her looked like a rotting corpse that had been burned alive, but he looked like Jericho, not a stranger. His neck was bent at an unusual angle and he had trouble controlling the movement of his head. His head flopped to the opposite side when he moved his shoulders to look at her. His face was charred on one side and his top teeth were exposed under his left cheek. His arms were gray, which was typical for a soul, but not for a possessed mortal. She couldn’t understand why he looked mostly like himself and yet sickeningly deformed.
“Nice jeans babe, but I like the dress better,” Jericho chuckled. “I’m not going back to the realms. You can tell Lucifer that I’m coming for both of you once my business here is done.”
He swung his tree-limbed size arm at her and caught her in the chest. She was thrown into the wall with a surprising amount of force.
Before Anjali could regain her senses, a voice called out Jericho’s name from the hallway. She shook her head and tried to focus. She saw a man with short brown hair and cold brown eyes standing in the demolished doorway. The scar across his brow and cheek was his least intimidating feature. Though he was dressed like a cowboy in a long leather duster, blue thermal shirt, and jeans, she knew that he was not a cowboy. His face resembled the hand-drawn sketch that she kept by her bedside table, but he looked older and more battle hardened. What had happened to her Angel of Vengeance? More importantly, what in the hell was Balthazar doing here?
Jericho roared and threw the prison official at Balthazar with an enough force to knock Balthazar back into the hallway, breaking the officer’s body when he landed on Balthazar.
Anjali pushed herself off the ground and tried to stand. She had to stop Jericho before he killed anyone else.
As she steadied herself, a desk collided with her face. She crashed to the ground and smacked her head on the linoleum as the mahogany desk exploded into wooden confetti all around her. She tried to move, but her body had taken the impact of the desk explosion. She’d been in plenty of fights before, but she’d never seen anyone move as fast as Jericho or cause so much pain in such a short amount of time.
She rolled to her side and got to her knees. She stood, though barely, and wiped away some of the wood shards. “When the hell did he get so strong?” she muttered to herself.
Pain radiated through her nose and skull. She put her hand to her nose and pulled it away to find it dripping with blood.
Dazed, Anjali stumbled into the hallway, but couldn’t see Jericho. He was gone.
She watched Balthazar push away the body of the mortal and heard him swear. He rubbed the back of his head and looked up at her. She saw the exact moment when Balthazar figured out who she was. Instead of being overjoyed to see her, he looked even more pissed, if that were possible.
“Anjali,” Balthazar growled when he saw the face that resembled the figurine he had carved all those years ago in Hell, right down to her expressive eyes. It was the face that had eluded him for countless millennia, though he had never laid eyes on her until this moment.
“I have to find Jericho and stop him! Help me or get out of the way!” she yelled, frustrated that she didn’t have time to stop and talk to Balthazar. She needed to stop Jericho.
“I can only assume that you have finally taken your place at Lucifer’s side if you are hunting down Jericho. It took you long enough,” he sneered.
She sighed and shook her head. “I promise you that we will talk, but right now I need to stop Jericho from taking any more innocent lives.” She brushed past the tall brick wall of an angel in front of her, determined to get to Jericho.
“Talk? If you wanted to talk, you should have been there when I was sentenced to live in Hell,” he said coldly. He snatched her arm and threw her into the wall with enough force to break the wall and propel her back into the demolished office. All thoughts of stopping Jericho were gone from his mind. He had more important things to deal with now.
The breath was knocked from her lungs as pain tore through her back and neck. A number of bones had snapped along the way, but she was more concerned about the angel standing over her, picking her up by the throat.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” she gasped. She tried in vain to pry his hand off.
Balthazar looked at her questioningly. “Hurt me? You aren’t strong enough to hurt me. Jericho got in a lucky shot, but there is no way that you’ll be able to harm me.”
He couldn’t believe his eyes. After all the long years waiting for her, he finally had his Master in the palm of his hand. He would savor his victory over her and kill her slowly. Overwhelmed by all the possible ways to kill her, he decided to render her unconscious until he could find the best way to seek his revenge.
Anjali summoned Hell Fire in her palms and thrust one hand into Balthazar’s face and the other against the hand gripping her throat.
Balthazar howled and dropped her. He couldn’t believe that she was fighting dirty. He stepped back and waved his burnt hand around, swearing.
Landing on her knee, she swung her right arm up and punched him in the groin. When he doubled over from the impact, she punched him in the throat with her left hand.
“I’m sorry Balthazar, I didn’t want it to be like this, but I have to stop Jericho. Please understand. I know you are angry with me, but I will come back to speak with you,” she said, trying to drag air into her burning throat.
Balthazar dropped to his knees and glared at her. Stupidly he hadn’t expected her to fight like a girl, though he should have expected nothing less from his treacherous Master. He wouldn’t lower his defenses again.
She limped around Balthazar, but he reached out and grabbed her arm. “You’re not going anywhere until I fulfill my oath,” he growled. He snatched his small push dagger from the lining of his coat and drove it into her rib cage as he pulled her off balance. He stood up and took her falling body into his arms.
Anjali gasped as the short, blunt dagger sliced through her side, narrowly missing the edge of her heart. Confused, she looked into Balthazar’s eyes. How could one of her own angels betray her like this? She knew the answer before she could blink. She hadn’t found him in time and he had finally become a Rogue.
Balthazar looked into the face of the woman who had forsaken him and his brothers. She had condemned them to live with the cruelest angel in Hell. She had allowed them to tempt the mortals without guidance, and worst of all she had allowed his brothers to suffer from their own temptations. He had thought about his revenge against her for so long. He waited to feel something: satisfaction, relief, glee, or anything resembling happiness, but instead, he felt cold inside and empty.
“I’m sorry, Balthazar. I should have been there for you,” she whispered. She put her hand on his face and tried to focus on his scar so that she wouldn’t lose consciousness.
He was befuddled by her words. She was apologizing for not being there for him. It was the last thing he expected to hear from her.
Balthazar didn’t have time to make sense of her apology before a man appeared behind Anjali and quickly pulled her from his arms. Before Balthazar could move, a metal chair collided with his face and he was thrown backwards to the ground.
Derick grabbed Anjali from Balthazar and planned to take her back to the Hall of Mirrors to heal, but she shook her head when she heard his thoughts.
“I can’t leave Alazar and Balthazar alone. They’ll kill each other,” she pleaded with Derick to stay in the room.
Derick was furious, but knew she was right. He dragged her into the hallway to keep her away from the fight, though he turned her so that she could watch her angels through the demolished wall.
Looking up through the blood running into his eyes from the cut on his scalp, Balthazar locked on to the most fearsome blue eyes that inhabited the Mortal Realm. Alazar, his former leader, was standing over him, and he was furious.
“It took you long enough to find her, Balthazar. You must be slowing in your old age,” Alazar quipped, though he was careful to keep his distance from his vicious brother.
“So much for vowing to kill her, my fearless leader,” Balthazar retorted, wiping the blood from the corner of his mouth with his uninjured hand.
“I know you vowed to kill her if I failed to accomplish the task, but there’s been a change of plans. If you touch her, you will finally have your chance to fight me. You may have bested Aeries, but you never had the opportunity to stand against me. You caught me off guard last time. Trust me when I say there is no way that you will walk away from this fight,” Alazar said evenly.
Balthazar ached to beat Alazar into a bloody heap; so much so, that he was willing to forget about his Master for the moment. He was going to get even with Alazar for all the pain inflicted upon him when he was forced to stay in Hell to await their Master. He had survived beatings from Lucifer while he was helplessly strung up. He’d watched his brothers turn on him and each other as the sins of the prisoners permeated their souls and made them heartless. He never had a moment’s rest in all the years he waited in the pit of despair, all because he listened to Alazar’s speeches about how life would be better once Anjali came for them. His leader had failed him so many times; he could barely contain the rage inside.
“I’m not sure how or why you caved, Alazar, but deep down I always knew you would side with her. Despite all that we suffered, I knew that once she showed up, you would roll over and beg to be claimed by her. You always thought that I was the pathetic one,” Balthazar snickered.
“Pathetic? You really want to call me names, Meekness?” Alazar asked mockingly.
Balthazar let his power rise as the agony he had endured in the absence of his Master rose to the surface. He used all the pain he had suffered while trying to survive Lucifer’s torture sessions and unleashed it upon his worthless leader.
“Here’s a name for you, Alazar. Baby Blue Eyes,” Balthazar snapped. He stepped to his left in an attempt to draw Alazar closer. He kept the sides of his duster open and his hands at the ready to pull a weapon.
Alazar stiffened when he heard the name spoken aloud, a name that a Predznak would not dare to utter unless he was suicidal.
“Don’t, Balthazar!” Alazar growled.
“That was Serena’s pet name for you, wasn’t it? She would drag you by your hair and strap you to her bed in the Den of Horrors. How quickly you have forgotten the degradation you suffered while our Master frolicked in the Mortal Realm slaughtering hundreds of innocent mortals, leaving us to fall into madness under the weight of our temptations. Most days I was surprised that you didn’t hang yourself in your bedchamber with your own bedding. Now you are protecting the very person whom you swore to kill. You promised that you would avenge us, which was the only reason I let you walk out on us and your duties that day in Hell. I told you that I wouldn’t seek you out and kill you because I expected you to fulfill your oath and kill our negligent Master. Now, here she is, alive and breathing. Join me brother, and together we will end Anjali. We can finally be free of our servitude and live our lives as we see fit.” The words flowed from Balthazar’s mouth as he wove his power through Alazar’s brain, invoking the memories that would force him to remember the humiliation and desperation they had felt in their Master’s absence. Balthazar had a millennia’s worth of deplorable images to draw upon as he created the rising need to strike out against the one responsible for their suffering and end her.
Alazar watched Balthazar moving closer using subtle body shifts while keeping his voice even and monotone.
“Are you kidding me? You’re trying to tempt me? That is the stupidest thing you have ever done. You must be desperate if you’re trying to turn me against Anjali. You have much to learn, Balthazar, and I’m going to enjoy watching her teach you the real meaning of being a Predznak,” Alazar laughed.
Alazar stepped back toward Anjali in an effort to shield her from his unhinged brother, in the event that he was cavalier enough to attack her again. He knew that she was badly injured since she hadn’t mopped the floor with Balthazar yet, or at the bare minimum retorted with a witty reply.
Balthazar raised his eyebrow and stood up straight. He had failed to tempt Alazar, which was odd since he had done it before, though in more subtle ways. He’d never blatantly used his power against him, but had made subtle suggestions. Alazar was obviously stronger now that he had joined with Anjali, which made him rethink his options.
Balthazar jumped at Alazar, but quickly pulled back, testing Alazar. Alazar had never been one for hand-to-hand combat. This battle would be easily won and his Master would be dead.
Alazar knew he was outmatched and at a disadvantage since he shouldn’t use his power against Balthazar. Alazar stepped to his right and tracked Balthazar’s motions. He’d seen Aeries train thousands of Celestial Warriors and mortals for battle; sadly, he had never thought to pay attention to the lessons. Aeries and Balthazar were the warriors; Alazar was the badass who tempted his enemies from afar. He cursed himself for not learning the nuances of fighting and swordplay.
Balthazar moved to his right, but quickly leaped forward intending to kick the left side of Alazar’s chest. Alazar blocked Balthazar’s heavy boot, though barely.
Balthazar glared at Alazar, surprised that his kick had been stopped. “I should have killed you the day you led us into Hell. Every day you promised that she would come. Every year you told us not to lose faith. I burned and drowned in the realms because of your false promises. I swore to myself that I would make you pay for keeping us in Hell!” Balthazar yelled. He punched the side of Alazar’s neck, and swung quickly to catch Alazar’s knee with his boot.
Alazar grunted and faltered, but remained on his feet. He blocked two more blows before hobbling backward trying to put more distance between them. He tried to keep pressure off his knee, but knew he had to keep moving.
“I believed in the Council and in Gabriel, Balthazar. They said that Anjali would come for us. I had to have faith for all of us. Do you think I enjoyed watching my brothers suffer under Lucifer’s tyranny and Serena’s abuse? No! I hated it. On top of that, I had to watch all of you lose your minds as the darkness invaded your souls. I wanted to leave as much as you did, but I wanted Anjali to come for us. It’s true. I wanted her to help us. If we left, I knew it would take longer for her to find us. Look at us now. Do you see how hard it has been for her to find us? I did the best I could, given the circumstances,” Alazar pleaded with Balthazar, hoping to reach the rational part of his brain.
“You were a fool!” Balthazar shouted.
“I was a fool. I admit it. I am sorry for all that you suffered in Hell under my command, but you must remember that I suffered right alongside you. I put myself in harm’s way so that you and the others might be spared. I intentionally pissed Lucifer off to draw his ire. I keep Serena occupied to spare the others. You were stronger than most of us. Lucifer had to capture you in your sleep and lock you in the Hall of Torment to punish you. Serena was too afraid of what you would do to her, so she left you alone. You were spared from the pain and humiliation that I endured. I accept that I failed you, but I did my best to protect you, all of you,” Alazar said, trying to catch his breath and bracing himself in case his words fell upon deaf ears.
Balthazar stood in front of his former leader and contemplated his next move. Images of Alazar yelling at him and condemning him for being feeble plagued his mind. He remembered the look of contempt on Alazar’s face when he abandoned him and walked out of Hell. He was filled with anger as he thought about Alazar commanding Aeries to beat him until he couldn’t breathe. Alazar’s grand speech did nothing to quell the rage in his chest, the rage that demanded that Death pay for his crimes with his life.
“Your words kept me hostage in that vulgar, demeaning cesspool of darkness. I refuse to listen to them anymore!” Balthazar drew his throwing knives from his coat and widened his stance. It wouldn’t kill Alazar, but it would take some of the fight out of him. He stood a better chance of defeating Alazar and Anjali if they were too busy plugging up the holes in their bodies. The boy holding Anjali was clearly not a fighter and posed no threat to him.
Anjali struggled to see around Alazar. She was losing so much blood that it was hard to stay lucid. She struggled to stay awake knowing that if she passed out, one of her angels would no longer be alive when she regained consciousness.
Pushing Derick’s hands away, she tried to get to her knees. “Balthazar, don’t do this is. I want to help you. You’ve suffered too long without anyone to care for you. Please, stand down and we can sort this out,” she whispered, too drained of energy to speak loudly.
Balthazar heard Anjali’s weakened voice. Instead of rejoicing in his imminent victory, something in his chest burned and ached. He couldn’t understand the feeling at first; perhaps it was regret? His leg nearly moved forward toward Anjali of its own accord, but he locked his knee and forced himself not to move.
“Let us help you, brother,” Alazar said softly as he put his hands up, following his Master’s lead. If she commanded him to end Balthazar, he would do it without question, though he wouldn’t enjoy it.
Balthazar’s head snapped up and he stared at Alazar. “I’m all too familiar with your idea of helping people. I don’t need to go down that path again.”
Balthazar threw his favorite knives at Alazar’s chest before Alazar could blink. Alazar doubled over in pain, not being fast enough to dodge the knives. Though he’d rarely lost his calm since joining with his Master, Alazar let his frustration be known when he locked his eyes on Balthazar’s and forced his power to rise. He wouldn’t kill Balthazar, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t scare the shit out of him.
Balthazar saw the hypnotic blue light emanating from Alazar’s eyes and knew immediately that he was no match for Death. He had no defense against his brother’s power, aside from killing him. He knew from experience that he couldn’t withstand Death’s icy gaze, so he had no other option but to abandon the fight. He disappeared, leaving his enemies to lick their wounds. He would see them again soon.
“That’s right, run!” Alazar shouted to the ceiling, sounding more confident that he was. “Balthazar has always been a coward at heart.”
Alazar grunted and pulled the fucking knives out of his chest one by one. He turned to look at Derick, who was trying to help Anjali to her feet while applying pressure on her ribs, trying to stem the bleeding.
“You okay?” Alazar knelt down next to them. He could see the anger lurking in her eyes. He knew that she was outraged that Balthazar had attacked him and was frustrated that she couldn’t stop him.
“I’ll live, but Balthazar won’t,” she sneered. She reached out and touched Alazar’s bloody chest. “How about you, are you okay?”
“The bastard threw my own knives at me. Well, the knives I gave to him as a present when he defeated Aeries for the first time. What a jerk. I warned you that you that he was single-minded in his pursuits,” he grumbled. He shoved the knives into the back pocket of his black jeans. He tried to put pressure on his chest wounds, but he was bleeding from too many places, so he gave up.
“I swear to you, I will kill him for what he did to you,” Anjali’s eyes were shifting from bright blue to black, which made Alazar nervous.
“Before you destroy the rest of the building, calm your anger. We have to get out of here before the mortals see us,” Alazar said. He could hear the tactical teams in the hallway clearing the rooms one by one.
“Agreed, but we have to find Jericho quickly,” she gasped as when she tried to move. “Something’s very wrong with him. Jericho’s soul wasn’t inhabiting someone else’s body, it was inhabiting his own body,” Anjali grimaced. She leaned against Derick’s outstretched arms for support.
“What is she talking about? That’s impossible.” Alazar frowned at Derick, expecting an explanation.
Derick shrugged. “I don’t know. She showed me an image of a guy, but he looked like Jason from Friday the 13th without his hockey mask. It couldn’t have been a living human. Look at the door. It splintered apart and the men in the hallway were crushed upon impact. I don’t think they’re getting back up. Something weird happened here. Jericho is strong, but not that strong,” he motioned to the motionless tactical team lying in the hallway.
“No, they won’t be getting back up,” Alazar replied sadly. “I don’t know what’s going on with Jericho, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has to be dragged back to Hell. I’ll search for Jericho. Anjali, you need to rest. Aside from the hole in the side of your chest, it looks like you might have a concussion and a broken nose. You need to heal before you confront anyone. Balthazar will think twice about engaging you directly until he studies his defeat. He’s a planner and will need time to devise a new strategy,” he said. He didn’t like seeing Anjali so pale.
Anjali slowly cleared the cobwebs from her brain. “You’re not going anywhere near Jericho until I know what is going on. I need to know what we’re up against. I know what I saw. I need to speak to Lucifer and Hades. Besides, you’re just as injured as I am. You need to heal, that’s an order. Our Balthazar problem can wait until I sort out this Jericho mess, but I promise, he will pay for what he did to you. I’ll confront Balthazar once I find Jericho.”
“Hopefully this will help,” Derick said. He pointed to a large binder filled with papers in the hallway.
“You found his prison file,” she smiled.
“Yes, my lady, though to call it a file is an understatement. It’s more like a compendium, it’s so thick,” Derick snorted.
“Good work,” she nodded. “Alazar, I assumed the prisoners were contained on the other side of the prison.”
Alazar nodded while examining her face and wiping the blood from her nose and chin with a corner of his black T-shirt. “Of course I took care of them, though I’m not looking forward to hearing Sebastian complain about the sudden influx of prisoners headed for the Realm of Fire.”
Anjali put her hand on Alazar’s shoulders and nodded slightly. “Thank you, both of you. We have what we need, let’s go home.”
Together they turned and disappeared, returning to the Hall of Mirrors. Concerned about Alazar’s injuries, she sent him to rest, despite his protests. Derick tried to steer her toward her room, but she was too upset about Jericho’s unsettling appearance to rest. Instead, she insisted on seeing Lucifer and Hades immediately.
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