Passion, p.43
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       Passion, p.43

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
Page 43


  He slowed and approached the Meadow of the Throne. It was just as he remembered it: the flat plain of brilliant white cloudsoil leading up toward the center of everything. The Throne itself, dazzlingly bright, radiating the warmth of pure goodness, so luminous that, even for an angel, it was impossible to look directly at it. One could not even get close to seeing the Creator, who sat upon the Throne clothed in brightness, so the customary synecdoche--calling the whole entity the Throne--was apt.

  Daniels gaze drifted to the arc of rippled silver ledges circling the Throne. Each one was marked with the rank of a different Archangel. This used to be their headquarters, a place to worship, to attend, to call on and deliver messages for the Throne.

  There was the lustrous altar that had been his seat, near the top right corner of the Throne. It had been there for as long as the Throne had been in existence.

  But there were only seven altars now. Once there had been eight.


  Daniel winced. He knew hed come through the Gates of Heaven, but he hadnt thought about precisely when. It mattered. The Throne had only been imbalanced like that for a very short period: the sliver of time right after Lucifer stated his plans to defect but before the rest of them had been called upon to choose sides.

  He arrived in that blink of a moment after Lucifers betrayal but before the Fall.

  The great rift was coming during which some would side with Heaven and some would side with Hell, when Lucifer would turn into Satan before their eyes, and the Great Arm of the Throne would sweep legions of them off the surface of Heaven and send them plummeting.

  He drew nearer to the Meadow. The harmonious note grew louder, as did the choral buzz of angels. The Meadow was glowing with the gathering of all the brightest souls. His past self would be down there; all of them were. It was so bright Daniel couldnt see clearly, but his memory told him that Lucifer had been permitted to hold court from his repositioned silver altar at the far end of the Meadow, in direct opposition to--though not nearly as high as--the Throne. The other angels were assembled before the Throne, in the middle of the Meadow.

  This was the roll call, the last moment of unity before Heaven lost half its souls. At the time Daniel had wondered why the Throne ever permitted the roll call to occur. Did he who had dominion over everything think Lucifers appeal to the angels would end in sheer humiliation? How could the Throne have been so wrong?

  Gabbe still spoke of the roll call with startling clarity. Daniel could remember little of it--other than the soft brush of a single wing reaching out to him in solidarity. The brush that told him: You are not alone.

  Could he dare to look upon that wing now?

  Perhaps there was a way to go about the roll call differently, so that the curse that befell them afterward did not strike so hard. With a shiver that reached his very core, Daniel realized that he could turn this trap into an opportunity.

  Of course! Someone had reworked the curse so that there was a way out for Lucinda. The whole time hed been racing after her, Daniel had assumed it must have been Lucinda herself. That somewhere in her heedless flight backward through time, shed opened up a loophole. But maybe . . . maybe it had been Daniel all along. He was here now. He could do it. In some sense, he must already have done it. Yes, hed been chasing its implications through the millennia hed traveled to get here. What he did here, now, at the very beginning, would ripple forward into every one of her lives. Finally, things were beginning to make sense.

  He would be the one to soften the curse, to allow Lucinda to live and travel into her past--it had to have begun here. And it had to have begun with Daniel.

  He descended to the plain of cloudsoil, edging along the glowing border. There were hundreds of angels there, thousands, filling it up with lustrous anxiety. The light was astonishing as he slipped in among the crowd. No one perceived his Anachronism; the tension and fear among the angels were too bright.

  The time has come, Lucifer, his Voice called from the Throne. This voice had given Daniel immortality, and all that came with it. This is truly what you desire?

  Not just for us, but for our fellow angels, Lucifer was saying. Free will is deserved by everyone, not just the mortal men and women whom we watch from above. Lucifer appealed now to the angels, burning brighter than the morning star. The line has been drawn in the cloudsoil of the Meadow. Now you are all free to choose.

  The first heavenly scribe stood at the base of the Throne in shimmery incandescence and began to call out the names. It started with the lowest-ranking angel, the seven thousand eight hundred and twelfth son of Heaven:

  Geliel, the scribe called, last of the twenty-eight angels who govern the mansions of the moon.

  That was how it began.

  The scribe kept a running tally in the opalescent sky as Chabril, the angel of the second hour of the night, chose Lucifer, and Tiel, the angel of the north wind, chose Heaven, along with Padiel, one of the guardians of childbeds, and Gadal, an angel involved with magical rites for the ill. Some of the angels made lengthy appeals, some of them scarcely said a word; Daniel kept little track of the tally. He was on a quest to find himself, and besides, he already knew how this ended.

  He waded through the field of angels, grateful for the time it took to call out all the choices. He had to recognize his own self before he rose up out of the masses and said the na?ve words hed been paying for ever since.

  There was commotion in the Meadow--whispering and flashing lights, a grumble of low thunder. Daniel hadnt heard the name called, had not seen the angel float up to declare his choice. He shoved through the souls in front of him to get a better view.

  Roland. He bowed before the Throne. With respect, I am not ready to choose. He looked at the Throne but gestured at Lucifer. You are losing a son today, and all of us are losing a brother. Many more, it seems, will follow. Please, do not enter lightly into this dark decision. Do not force our family to splinter apart.

  Daniel teared up at the sight of Rolands soul--the angel of poetry and music, Daniels brother and his friend--pleading in the white sky.

  You are wrong, Roland, the Throne boomed. And in defying me, you have made your choice. Welcome him to your side, Lucifer.

  No! Arriane shrieked, and flew up out of the center of brightness to hover beside Roland. Please, only give him time to understand what his decision means! The decision has been made was all the Throne said in reply. I can tell what is in his soul, despite his words--he has already chosen.

  A soul brushed up against Daniels. Hot and stunning, instantly recognizable.


  What are you? Cam whispered. He sensed innately that something was different about Daniel, but there was no way to explain who Daniel really was to an angel whod never left Heaven, who had no conception of what was to come.

  Brother, do not fret, Daniel pleaded. It is me.

  Cam grasped his arm. I perceive that, though I see youre also not you. He grimly shook his head. I trust you are here for a reason. Please. Can you stop this from happening?

  Daniel. The scribe was calling his name. Angel of the silent watchers, the Grigori.

  No. Not yet. He had not worked out what to say, what to do. Daniel tore through the blinding light of souls around him, but it was too late. His earlier self rose slowly, gazing neither at the Throne nor at Lucifer.

  Instead, he was looking into the hazy distance. Looking, Daniel remembered, at her.

  With respect, I will not do this. I will not choose Lucifers side, and I will not choose the side of Heaven.

  A roar went up from the camps of angels, from Lucifer, and from the Throne.

  Instead, I choose love--the thing you have all forgotten. I choose love and leave you to your war. Youre wrong to bring this upon us, Daniel said evenly to Lucifer. Then, turning, he addressed the Throne. All that is good in Heaven and on Earth is born of love. This war is not just. This war is not good. Love is the only thing worth fig
hting for.

  My child, the rich, steady voice boomed from the Throne. You misunderstand. I am standing firm on my ruling out of love--love for all of my creations.

  No, Daniel said softly. This war is about pride. Cast me out, if you must. If that is my destiny, I surrender to it, but not to you.

  Lucifers laughter was a foul belch. Youve got the courage of a god, but the mind of a mortal adolescent. And your punishment shall be that of an adolescent. Lucifer swept his hand to one side. Hell will not have him.

  And he has already made plain his choice to forsake Heaven, came the disappointed voice from the Throne. As with all my children, I see what is in your soul. But I do not know now what will become of you, Daniel, nor your love.

  He will not have his love! Lucifer shouted.

  Then you have something to propose, Lucifer? asked the Throne.

  An example must be made. Lucifer seethed. Can you not see? The love he speaks of is destructive! Lucifer grinned as the seeds of his most evil act began to sprout. So let it destroy the lovers and not the rest of us! She will die!

  Gasps from the angels. It was impossible, the very last thing anyone expected.

  She will die always and forevermore, Lucifer continued, his voice thick with venom. She will never pass out of adolescence--will die again and again and again at precisely the moment when she remembers your choice. So that you will never truly be together. That will be her punishment. And as for you, Daniel-- That is sufficient, the Throne said. Should Daniel choose to stand by his decision, what you propose, Lucifer, will be punishment enough. There was a long, strained pause. Understand: I do not wish this upon any of my children, but Lucifer is right: An example must be made.

  This was the moment when it had to happen, Daniels chance to open a loophole in the curse. Boldly, he flew upward in the Meadow to hover side by side with his earlier self. Now was the time to change things, to alter the past.

  What is this twinning? Lucifer seethed. His newly red eyes narrowed at the two Daniels.

  The host of angels below Daniel flickered in confusion. His earlier self looked on in wonder. Why are you here? he whispered.

  Daniel did not wait for anyone to question him further, did not even wait for Lucifer to sit down or for the Throne to recover from this surprise.

  I have come from our future, from millennia of your punishment--

  The sudden bewilderment of the angels was palpable in the heat sent out of their souls. Of course, this was beyond anything any of them could fathom. Daniel could not see the Throne clearly enough to tell what effect his return had on him, but Lucifers soul glowed red-hot with rage. Daniel forced himself to go on:

  I come here to beg clemency. If we must be punished--and my Master, I do not question your decision--please at least remember that one of the great features of your power is your mercy, which is mysterious and large and humbles us all.

  "Mercy?" Lucifer cried. After the size of your betrayals? And does your future self regret his choice?

  Daniel shook his head. My soul is old, but my heart is young, he said, looking at his earlier self, who seemed stunned. Then he gazed at his beloveds soul, beautiful and burning bright. I cannot be other than what I am, and I am the choices of all my days. I stand by them.

  The choice is made, the Daniels said in unison.

  Then we stand by the punishment meted out, the Throne boomed.

  The great light shuddered, and in the long moment of utter silence, Daniel wondered whether he had been right to come forward at all.

  Then, at last: But we will grant your request for mercy.

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