End of Days Page 53

Raffe turns to me. ‘Because angels aren’t your type. You hate them, remember?’

‘But these guys aren’t angels anymore.’

Raffe arches his brow at me. ‘You should be with a nice human boy. One who takes your orders and puts up with your demands. Someone who dedicates his life to keeping you safe and well fed. Someone who can make you happy. Someone you can be proud of.’ He waves his hand at the Watchers. ‘There’s nobody like that in this lot.’

I glare at him. ‘I’ll be sure to pass him by you first before I’ – settle for – ‘choose him.’

‘You do that. I’ll let him know what’s expected of him.’

‘Assuming he survives your interrogation,’ says Howler.

‘Big assumption,’ says Cyclone.

‘I’d like to be there to watch,’ says Hawk. ‘Should be interesting.’

‘Don’t worry, Commander,’ says Howler. ‘We’ve all come to our own conclusions. We’ve all been there.’

Then a somber mood comes over them. Thermo clears his throat. ‘Speaking of . . .’

‘Some of them survived,’ says Raffe.

‘Which ones?’

‘It won’t help to know,’ says Raffe. ‘Just know that I managed to rescue some of them, and they lived.’

‘And the children?’ There’s no hope in Thermo’s voice when he asks this.

Raffe sighs. ‘You were right. I left to hunt “the nephilim monsters” only to find they were just children. Gabriel said the spawn of an angel and a Daughter of Man would grow into a monster. I didn’t want to kill them while they were still harmless, so I waited. And waited. Generation after generation, to root out the evil that I’d been warned about.’

He shakes his head. ‘But none came. I searched everywhere for nephilim monsters, but they were just people. Some of them were particularly large people, and they had fewer children than most. The children they had were sometimes especially talented and beautiful, but nothing monstrous. And eventually, the bloodlines thinned among the humans to the point where it wasn’t uncommon to have at least a drop or two of angelic blood in a population.’

‘I knew it was a lie,’ says Cyclone.

‘Thank you, Archangel,’ says a Watcher with a tuft of spotted feathers on his wing. ‘Thank you for sparing them.’

‘My orders were to kill the nephilim monsters,’ says Raffe. ‘Gabriel’s words exactly. I found the nephilim. I can’t do anything about it if none of them were monsters. I did my duty.’

‘But you stayed a long time, didn’t you?’ I ask.

Raffe nods. ‘If I went back too early to report on my mission, Gabriel could have clarified his order to just kill the nephilim and sent me back.’

Now I understand. ‘You were waiting until the nephilim blood thinned, until no one could identify one.’

Raffe shrugs. ‘Or until one of them turned monstrous. Preferably two. Then I could have come back and said that I killed the nephilim monsters as ordered.’

‘But that didn’t happen,’ I say.

He shakes his head.

The Watchers look like they need a moment. Some of them find a rock to sit on, while others just look away or close their eyes for a minute.

‘Why would Gabriel lie and make a rule that an angel who married a Daughter of Man would fall?’ asks one of the Watchers.

‘Maybe he didn’t want to taint the angelic bloodline with our human blood,’ I say. ‘Most angels think of us as animals.’ I shrug.

‘How long have we been here?’ asks Thermo. ‘Our children have great-great-grandchildren?’

‘From your perspective, I don’t think it’s been long since you fell,’ says Raffe. ‘But we’re from a different time. In our world, your fall is ancient history.’

The Watchers exchange looks with each other.

‘You have to get us out of here,’ says the Watcher with the spotted tuft. ‘Please, Commander. Who knows when Judgment Day will come.’ His voice cracks at the end.

There’s desperation on their faces.

‘It’s one thing to die in battle,’ says Beliel, ‘but to die in the Pit, or worse – to live eternally in the Pit . . .’ He shakes his head. ‘It’s incomprehensible. We’re being punished for nothing.’

‘Uriel says that Gabriel went insane,’ says Raffe. ‘That he hasn’t actually spoken to God in eons. Maybe never.’

Most of the Watchers stare at him openmouthed. A couple of them, though, nod as if they had been suspecting this for some time.

‘I have no idea if it’s true,’ says Raffe. ‘Nobody does, except for Gabriel. But it does seem like he was wrong about the nephilim. I’d been telling myself that it was a mistake. But now . . . who knows what else he was wrong about?’ He glances at me.

‘In the end, it doesn’t really matter,’ says Hawk. ‘Our loyalties are to you, whatever happens.’

‘Do you have a plan, Commander?’ asks Thermo.

‘Sure,’ says Raffe. ‘The plan is to bust you out, then you’ll help me take down Uriel.’

Everyone’s face changes. I’m not sure if it’s awe or disbelief. Maybe a little of both.

‘Don’t get excited,’ says Raffe. ‘We don’t know if we can all get out. And even if we can, we don’t know what’s waiting on the other side.’

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