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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 129: Hastings 136
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When the ground vanished beneath them, Lauren grabbed herself with her thoughts and lifted her body toward the ceiling. She could see Derek falling, but at this moment she could do nothing for him. The vampire soldiers were acquiring targets.
From this vantage she could shoot down on the enemy, and also use scripture against them. She started with something she hoped would reduce their ability to fight back, stripping them of some of the magic that enabled them. "For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun." She fired the guns several times while she said this, and followed it with more, words which in the past had weakened the attacks of the vampires she'd faced. "If God is for us, who is against us?" As she reloaded the revolvers, she remembered another attack, "Gird yourselves, yet be shattered; gird yourselves, yet be shattered. Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted; state a proposal, but it will not stand, for God is with us." The enemy visibly shook from the pain these words caused them.
One of her companions had called for light, but now one of the vampire wizards was making it darker. With the clouded glass and the residual smoke (and perhaps, she thought, there was more smoke) it was becoming difficult to see their targets; besides, vampires fought better in darkness, which inherently meant worse in the light. More light was needed. "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them." The room brightened some; but already she knew that the vampires were working to make it darker. She added, "There is the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man."
Several times she saw guns raised toward her; she used the spell she'd learned from Merlin, the same one she heard him using below when they tried to hit him. "Dialtha Thur" were the words; but she had to holster the left gun so she could use that hand to brush them aside. She'd used it against arrows before; she was pleased to discover it worked as well against bullets.
"He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." This was one of her favorites; it would strengthen her allies, she hoped, even as it confirmed its power by setting fire to several of the vampires below. Someone below was fighting back, damping the fire; but there was too much going on to keep up on all of it. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Light increased; the vampires shielded their eyes against the brilliance. Then it decreased. "Behold," she continued, "the day of the Lord is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it."
She had again reloaded the pistols. A couple of vampires had now fallen from the shots, but they were harder to hit from above, even if most of the hits struck heads. It didn't seem to matter. For humans, brains were important, whether because they physically ran the body or because they somehow provided the point of connection between spirit and body. For vampires, the brains were as dead as the rest of them, and did not matter.
She took a bullet, and before she could react she took another. "Dialtha Thur," she exclaimed, and the rest of the barrage shifted to her left, drilling holes in the ceiling above her; but the damage had been done, she was hit. One of the slugs had been deflected by the plastic steel breastplate she wore under the robe; the other had found a gap in the chain, and passed into her abdomen. She was losing blood now, and losing time.
Another barrage of fire came her direction, and this time she was too slow to deflect it. She rolled into a dive to try to escape, and most of it hammered her hidden armor plating, but she could feel the bruising beneath, and a worse wound where the chain had been driven into her arm. Sweeping around the side of the office, she was for the moment somewhat protected.
Focus, she thought, even as she was losing focus. There was one thing she had to do: she had to stop Tubrok. Ana had predicted it, and if the prophecy was to be true, it would have to be true now. The antediluvian vampire had taken several bullets, deflected quite a few spells, and was in remarkably good shape. Lauren scanned the battlefield. Something was holding Bob, Derek was missing, and although Merlin, Bethany, and Shella were holding their own, there were still half a dozen vampires standing, not including the three wizards.
Focus she did. She saw only Tubrok, pointed at him, and recalled words from Isaiah. "Your covenant with death will be cancelled, and your pact with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, then you become its trampling place. As often as it passes through, it will seize you; for morning after morning it will pass through, anytime during the day or night, and it will be sheer terror to understand what it means." The ancient vampire shuddered. His knees bent, his head dropped, and his voice cracked. Then he seemed to change to a different ritual, a different magic. It took Lauren a moment to recognize what it was. He was recharging. She would weaken him, and he would magically recall strength to himself. He could fight forever, if he could keep doing this.
Perhaps she could, too. She was, after all, the angel Ana expected–angelos, in Greek, messenger, an immortal being from beyond the universe sent to deliver God's message. She murmured quietly, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength."
As life surged through her, she knew she had to strengthen her friends, and then bring down Tubrok. She flew out, sweeping wide, moving erratically to avoid being easily targeted, and cried out, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago." Then she again turned her attention on her ancient enemy. "I will camp against you encircling you, and I will set siegeworks against you, and I will raise up battle towers against you. Then you will be brought low; from the earth you will speak, and from the dust where you are prostrate your words will come. Your voice will also be like that of a spirit from the ground, and your speech will whisper from the dust."
Tubrok was again struggling; but he was again calling strength back to himself. It was time for something serious. Sometimes, she thought, courage is about knowing the best time and place and way to sacrifice your own life for the lives of others. She tumbled from the sky, gritting her teeth against the pain, and landed on her feet nearly atop Tubrok.
Grabbing the demon lord with both hands, she shouted in his face the words which had finished his minion Horta, as loud as she could still manage, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." She felt the heat begin to grow in his body, begin to burst outward, begin to consume her. God had answered; the fire of hell was going to claim its own, even if it tried to grab her. She would slip through its fingers, of course. Hell had no power over her. Death had no sting. The worst that could happen to her is that she would awaken in another world with more to do. The best would be for Jesus to be waiting to receive her as Peter opened the door to let her inside. Goodbye, Bethany, she sent through her thoughts. For now, I will miss you; but one day I'll meet you, east side, center gate. Whatever the heavenly Jerusalem was really like, Lauren knew that she and Bethany would one day be able to embrace again, and thank God and each other for the great things they had been allowed to share.
The heat became unendurable, and Lauren's body let go of the world.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #209: Versers Victorious. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: