Tag Archive | Path of Shadows

My First Quote from Path of Shadows 2: HIDDEN IN SHADOWS

My gaze drifts over to Sarah, who’s sleeping across from me in her bunk bed. Brazael’s loud ranting doesn’t seem to wake her.

“Don’t worry about talking quietly,” Brazael says and nods over to Sarah. “She won’t be waking anytime soon.”

In confusion, I gaze back at where Sarah is sleeping. The pastel blue, cotton blankets are pulled up to her shoulders. Her face is turned away from me, so all I can see is her long, black braided hair from where I sit. There’s no movement from under the sheets. I can’t tell if she’s breathing or not.

“What did you do to her?” My eyes burn with bright anger as I meet his expectant gaze. I hold his stare momentarily before I focus on his mouth to break our gaze.

From his back pocket, he produces a butcher knife. Crimson red blood is matted over top of the gleaming silver blade. My mouth hangs open slightly as I recognize the knife. Turning around on the bed, I lift up my pillow. The knife I’d taken from the kitchen and placed under my pillow earlier is gone. Brazael has it in his hand.

Facing him now, I grab at my covers, clawing them until my hands ball into fists. I want to kill him, strip the life right out of his body, but I resist the powerful urge to do so. If I kill him, I’ll surely be exposing myself for who I really am. My mission will be ruined.

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PATH OF SHADOWS Quote of the Day

“There’s a war coming, Diana. I can’t say there are many Angels left on Earth. We’ll need all of ones we can find.”

Her eyes round slightly as she realizes what I’m suggesting. “No. I’m not an Angel. This isn’t my fight.”

“Yes, it is,” I correct her. “You’re half-angel. Whether you like it or not, you were born into this war. The demons will come after you whether you fight on our side or not. At the very least, you need to be able to protect yourself. Let me train you.”

I’m right. She can see this much as she bites her lower lip. “Okay,” she agrees. “I accept your offer, but I’m not promising anything. What you’re asking me to do I have to think about.”

“That’s all that I ask of you.” I move away from her and return to my former position by the dryer. “Consider what I’ve said.”

Chapter 9 and 10 of Path of Shadows

Chapter Nine: Stone’s Throw (Diana’s Point of View)

“How much longer until we reach Pittsburgh?” Raphael asks the next morning as he walks up behind me.

The map is placed on a table in the kitchen of the church. I hover over it and try to count the miles from here to Pittsburgh in my head. I count the days and divide them by hours of daylight. “A few days by foot. Maybe five or six days tops.” I look up. “Where’s Emma?”

“Outside taking a walk. I would’ve accompanied her, but she’s safe in the daylight,” he says and leans against the counter with one leg lapped over the other. “I was wondering what you plan on saying to your Aunt when you find her. Have you given any thought to what you’re going to say?”

I don’t know what I’m going to say to my Aunt. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. Now, it does make me wonder. “I’ll figure it out when I get there.”

“You have a few days to think about what you’re going to say to her, but you should really think about it.”

Hurrying footsteps get louder the closer they get to us. Emma runs in the kitchen and over to us with a huge grin on her rosy face. “You guys’ll never guess what I just found,” she says. Her voice is high and giddy.

Raphael and I stare at her, confusion on the both of our faces. I question whether or not she’s finally cracked.

“Come on,” she says and pulls me along with her by the arm. “Let me show you what I discovered.”

Raphael’s right behind as Emma leads us out of the church through the front doors. We make our way around the side of the church and over to the wooden garage in the backyard. She pulls the garage doors open. Sunlight seeps inside and lights the garage up.

There inside sits an old green Chevy truck with the logo of the church on its side doors.

“See,” Emma points at it and almost bounces on her heels.

“How do we know this old thing still works?” I don’t want to give myself false hope, though I can feel it blooming inside against my better judgement.

Raphael walks over to the truck and pops the hood open. “Let’s find out,” he says and takes a look under the hood.

Beside him, Emma and I watch him pull tubes, nozzles, and wires out. He open them and look through every little part inside the engine. Satisfied, he walks over to the driver’s side and opens the door. We see him hop into the driver’s seat and have a look around. A few minutes later, we hear the rattling of keys. A moment after that, the rough sound of the engine comes to life.

“It works,” I whisper in disbelief.

The engine dies down and quits. Raphael hops out and walks over to us with a smile on his face. “The truck runs fine,” he examines. “There’s enough gas to get us to where we need to go.”

Emma and I share a look.

“Do you know how to drive it?” Emma asks him before I can.

“Yeah,” he answers and looks between us. “Don’t you two know how to drive?”

“In this type of economic downfall people don’t really drive cars,” I tell him. “No, we don’t know how to drive.”

He nods like he should’ve considered that. “Okay. You both go get your stuff and we’ll head out. I can drive.”

With his reassurance, we run back inside the church and pack up all of our stuff. It’s not much, only two backpacks full of clothes, bottles, and hunting equipment. We had to pack light when we left South Dakota because we were travelling by foot and didn’t want to be weighed down.

Raphael places our bags into the bed of the truck while we get into the passenger side. Packed and ready to go, he gets back in the driver’s seat and shuts his door. He puts the key in the ignition, turns it, and brings the old beast back to life.

“Here we go,” he says as we pull out of the garage and head for Pittsburgh.

Sitting and looking out the window, I have time to think about Raphael’s question. Does my Aunt even knows of my existence, and if she does, would she want to know me. I’ve travelled across the country to seek her out. The least she can do is talk to me. But that’s if I find her. I turn to see Emma. She’s passed out with her head leaning on my shoulder. I hope we didn’t travel all this way for nothing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself if I’m wrong, and I’ve dragged Emma along with me. Sighing, I turn my head to look back out the window.

The day passes before I know it. Hours of sitting in the truck has time lapsing in my mind. I stare at the yellow and white lines painted on the roads blankly. The sky’s a deep shade of purple by the time I see a green sign that identifies the town we’ve entered as Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

The truck comes to a stop in front of a library and the engine dies.

“Why are we stopping?” I turn and ask Raphael.

He points out the window at the descending sun. “It’s almost night. We’ll stay here and continue travelling at daybreak tomorrow.”

“We’re so close,” I tell him and remove my seatbelt.

We unpack for the night in the former library. There are shelves upon shelves of dusty books with yellowed pages. There are lines pressed into the red carpet of the floor where desks, chairs, and tables once sat. I breathe in the thicker air that mixes with the fresh air from outside now. The scent reminds me of an abandoned building. Emma falls asleep as soon as she lays down on the blanket. I sit next to her on the blanket and stare blankly at the dusty books.

“You need to stop worrying,” Raphael says as he walks over and kneels down beside me. “We’re only a stone’s throw away from Pittsburgh. We’ll be there in the morning. Just relax.”

I know he’s right. He always seems to be right. I lay down and try to relax my tense muscles. Noises outside of the library make me sit up with a quickness.

“Stay here,” he whispers and walks out of the library doors without making a single sound.

 

Chapter Ten: Family (Diana’s Point of View)

Raphael reenters the library and comes back over to me. He shrugs his shoulders as he sits down next to me on the worn-out gray carpet. “No one was out there. It must’ve just been the wind.”

I lay down on the blanket to sleep. The creeping feeling inside of me makes me feel we aren’t alone. Brushing it off, I close my eyes, and know I’m safe as long as he’s next to me. Within no time, I’m comatose.

The next morning we’re back on the road. I grow anxious in my seat as we enter Pittsburgh. Emma nudges me with her elbow and smiles widely; her way of saying we did it. Our premature excitement is thwarted when the truck begins putt, putting and comes to a slow stop.

“What happened?” I ask Raphael when we come to a complete stop in the middle of the road.

“The truck stalled,” he replies and opens the driver’s side door. “We ran out of gas.” He sighs and hops out of the truck. “We’ll have to continue on foot.”

Emma and I get out. We grab our backpacks and follow Raphael down the road. He has the map out again and looks it over as we venture. I try to stay in high spirits as we go. I can’t let one thing like a truck stalling completely destroy my excitement today. Not when we’ve come so far.

Almost an hour passes before we reach the neighborhood of Morningside. I check every street sign we pass by because I know we’re getting close to our destination. All the houses lining these streets are older, Victorian maybe, and once upon a time could’ve been historical houses.

“Wellesley Avenue,” I say under my breath as I stand before the sign.

We head down Wellesley Avenue, the street Thea’s supposed to live on. Rows of houses blur passed me in a haze as I speed walk towards the 1400s numbered houses. 1401, 1403, I think as I pass them. 1405, 1407. I stop in front of a three story reddish-brown brick house with a front porch.

“1409,” I say. “This’ it.”

Standing still, I take a soothing breath to counteract the anxiety. One step before the other, I suck it in and walk up the steps onto the porch. Emma and Raphael are with me as I’m in front of the door. My fist raps on the wooden door.

We wait, but no one answers.

I knock again, a little harder this time.

There’s only silence on the other side.

“Maybe she doesn’t live here anymore,” Emma sympathizes in a soft voice. “She could’ve moved.”

What more can I do? I travelled across the country to get here. I’ve done all I possibly can. I nod slowly and feel my shoulders slump with defeat. I can’t believe we came all this way to discover no one lives here. I don’t protest when Emma leads me away from the door with her hand on my back guiding.

A loud crashing sound comes from within the house and alarms us. We stop and turn back to the door. Raphael puts his hand on the doorknob and twists it. It’s unlocked. He pushes the door open with a gentle nudge. It squeaks as it swings.

“Is anyone here?” He calls out inside.

No one answers again.

We go inside the house with quiet stealth. The three of us split up and have a look around the house to see if anyone’s here. I head up the stairs to the second floor. No one appears as I peek into the rooms: two bedrooms, a bathroom, a room filled with books, and a larger room with unopened boxes on the bare wood floor. There’s no dust. Everything gives me the impression it’s been used recently. The air even smells of Windex, polish, and potpourri.

Where are they at then?

Finding no one upstairs, I head back down to the first floor. Raphael’s at the bottom of the staircase when I get there. There’s a crease forming in-between his black eyebrows. I can tell he found no one either.

“No luck,” I shake my head in confusion.

“Someone definitely lives here,” he observes.

Emma’s voice calls us from below. “Guys, come downstairs. Please.”

We find the basement door in the kitchen. I go down the stairs with Raphael behind me.

“What did you find?” I ask Emma and pause in step as I see her in full view now. She has her trembling hands raised in the air. She’s as still as a statue. All I can focus on is the guy, a year or two younger than us, holding a shotgun. The barrel’s pointed in Emma’s direction.

 

Chapters 7 and 8 of PATH OF SHADOWS: a young adult novel

Chapter Seven: Grounded (Diana’s Point of View)

We walk under cloudy skies down street after street. Raphael walks ahead of us, looking over my map to keep us moving in the right direction. Emma walks beside me and keeps her eyes trained on him. I can’t force her to like him, but I hope she comes to terms with him being here with us.

“How much longer until we reach the border?” Emma asks me without looking away from him.

“Two days, or so. Why?”

She stops walking and pulls me aside. “Diana, are you 100% sure we can trust him?”

Am I 100% sure? No, but I can’t tell her that. If I did, she won’t ever trust or tolerate him. I say the only fact I’m sure of instead. “He saved my life, Emma. That counts for something.”

We continue walking, so Raphael doesn’t notice we stopped in the first place. Emma doesn’t ask me anymore prying questions about him, but she still doubts trusting him.

“What have you been doing since you were grounded on Earth, Raphael?” Emma asks during a momentary break from walking.

I give her a look that tells her not to pry.

“I can ask him a question or two, can’t I?” She raised her eyebrows and arms.

I shake my head in reprove. I know why she’s asking. She wants to know if he’s changed sides. She wants to pick his brain to figure out what he really wants with us. I haven’t told her about Raphael and my arrangement yet. I don’t want her to grow any more paranoid, or concerned, about me. As much as I disapprove of her prying, it does have me curious about his possible answers.

“It’s alright,” Raphael assures me and doesn’t sound irritated or like his privacy is being invaded. “In answer to your question, Emma, I’ve spent most of my time travelling.”

“Yeah? Where to?” She continues questioning.

He shrugs, reflecting. “Everywhere. I was in Europe and Asia for almost fifteen years. The Europeans aren’t fairing much better than the people here in the territories.”

“I wonder why Lucifer chose to make the United States his home instead of another country in Europe or Asia?” I say, verbalizing my thought.

He folds up the map and lowers it to his side. “I guess because countries in Europe and Asia are older, with a deep rooted mindset. Whereas, the United States’ still young. This country is easier to shape and mold into his image than others.”

“So is that all you’ve done?” Emma narrows her gaze. “You’ve just been travelling.”

“Not in the beginning,” he admits. “Weeks after the battle I met a woman named Willow. She took me into her home. We guided each other through hard times. She was the reason I begun travelling.”

Emma loses her edge and grows with fascination. “Did you love her?”

Raphael smiles and looks at the ground as he speaks. “Yes, I loved her. She showed me how to find a new path. I travelled the world to help others and destroy demons. My world had changed, yet my mission to help protect mankind hadn’t.”

The interrogation is over. Emma watches him with curiosity instead of suspicion. Her face softens. The rest of the walk is peaceful, except for my legs wanting to give out beneath me.

Twilight hovers in the sky as night is close approaching. Raphael finds an abandoned house for us to stay the night in. Emma and I set up camp for the night in a windowless bedroom upstairs while Raphael does his patrol outside. Emma and I lay on the blanket. My tired legs relax.

“We’ll make it to the border by tomorrow evening,” I say to Emma excitedly.

Her eyes are ready to shut. “We’re almost there.”

 

Chapter Eight: Borders (Diana’s Point of View)

Exhaustion weighs me down as we travel at daybreak. Hours of walking wares on me and takes a toll on my leg muscles. Emma drags her feet beside me as she pushes on. She flashes me a tired smile and returns to taking in the scenery. I can barely make out the sounds of Raphael’s light footsteps behind us.

The street is almost vacant, except for a family of four scurrying off down a side street. Two guys are on the sidewalk trading poultry. A woman in her mid-forties is on a porch step yelling at her young son for walking off too far. I glance over at a yellow shuttered house and catch the eye of an elderly woman. She locks her window and draws the shades close.

Further down the road no one’s insight. Day is slowly fading with night blooming soon.

Raphael looks over the map and folds it up. “We should be at the border by now,” he says more to himself than us and shakes his head.

“We are,” Emma clarifies and points down the street.

I follow her direction and see it. A rectangular, metal green sign that says Now Leaving Ohio and across from it is another sign saying Welcome to Pennsylvania. I enrapture in excitement. Our long journey is almost to an end. Emma shares in my thrill, but Raphael doesn’t. He has a serious look plastered on his face as he motions for us to follow him with the wave of his hand. We follow behind him and end up behind a bush to a duplex building.

“Stay here,” he orders us.

I don’t understand. “Why? The border’s right there,” I say, pointing in its direction. “If we go now we can make it there before its dark.”

“Exactly,” he replies. “The border’s right there. The demons guarding it are going to be right there too. Let me go check it out. I’ll try to find a safe way across. Unless, you want to take your chances and go now?”

His tone makes my cheeks burn in anger. I don’t like that he’s looking down on me. Like I can’t handle taking care of myself. I exhale my frustration and let it go because I know he’s right. “You go. We’ll stay here.”

He nods and walks off.

Emma and I kneel down and hide behind the bush. My heartbeat quickens and pounds harder with each beat against my ribcage. Sweat makes my hands clammy. Fear prickles up my spine, but I try to keep my face composed for Emma’s sake. She doesn’t appear any more confident than me.

“What if we don’t make it?” She asks in a quivering, small voice minutes later.

I don’t want to answer her question. The very thought of one of us not making it across makes my stomach twist into knots. “We’ll make it,” I tell her in a façade of bravado. “I promise you.”

“Hey,” Raphael whispers from beside us and makes the both of us jump with fright. “It’s clear. Let’s move.”

We stand and distance ourselves from the bush. I feel like a spy as we move along the buildings incognito and inch our way towards the border. The signs are almost in reaching distance now. Relief awaits me on the other side.

Almost there, I think as we approach the signs. I glance in all directions while Emma crosses over. I see nothing or anyone suspicious watching us.

“You next,” he tells me and remains vigilant.

One foot passes over, and then the other. I’m in Pennsylvania now. Raphael is right behind me. Now that we’re safe across, I exhale the breath I held in. Emma can barely contain her joy as we carry on.

I was worried for nothing. My disappointment and worry release from my body. The gravel crunches beneath my feet as we head down another road. Emma hums a song I can’t name. I can’t help but to grin at her. It’s the first time in a long while since I’ve seen her really happy.

Raphael’s long arm shoots out in front of us and blocks us. We all stop. He puts a finger to his mouth silencing us.

“What is it?” I whisper.

“Shush,” he whispers back. His head tilts in the opposite direction like he’s listening for something. A second later, his head snaps in our direction alarmingly. “Run! Run to the church!” He yells at us.

Emma takes off sprinting to the white church down the street off to the right. I run right behind her without any question.

Halfway to the church, I look back at Raphael. He’s still where we left him, standing in the middle of a three-way street intersection. Demons begin to manifest out of the shadows around him. There has to be twelve or fifteen of them. I know there’s too many demons for Raphael to take on his own and make it out alive.

This isn’t right. I stop dead in my tracks, almost spraining my neck in the process, as I glance in between Raphael and Emma.

She notices I’ve stopped and halts. “Come on, Diana!”

“No,” I tell her. “I have to help him.”

“I’m coming with you,” she tells me and tries to walk over.

“Stay,” I demand of her. “Get to the church and lock yourself inside.”

Our eyes meet for a moment. There’s a grave look on her face like she’s trying to memorize my face. Like this might be the last time she’ll ever gazes upon it. Emma turns and keeps on running for the church obediently without looking back. I won’t be able to help Raphael if I know she isn’t safe. I exert all of my muscles to run faster and get to Raphael in time. Fear envelopes me, but I can’t let it hold me back now. I have to help him.

Two demons hold him down on the ground while he struggles to get back on his feet. The others see me coming as I get closer. There’s no turning back now. I pull my sword out of its black sheath and raise it level to my arms. A growl almost like a cry gurgles its way up my chest and out of my mouth.

A demon with a sadistic grin on his face comes at me. Our swords make a clinging sound as they clash. Soon enough, I’m taking on three of them at once. I find an inner strength in myself hidden deep within I never knew was there before. An instinct, a drive, a light to defend myself from their attacks.

I barely notice Raphael’s standing as I destroy another demon. Movement from behind alarms me. Spinning around, I have my sword knocked from my grasp. It lands a few feet away on the ground. A bald demon shoves me and causes me to lose my balance.

The gravel and I collide hard as I fall. He lifts his sword high above himself and drives it down over my heart. My body reacts before I can think of what to do. I roll over and get to my feet. He’s just as quick. The cold metal of his sword is pressed against the flesh of my neck.

Frozen, I stare at him without looking into his black eyes. I know if I move he’ll end me.

His triumphant smile fades and his eyes round as he looks down. I gaze down too. The tip of a blade emerges out of his heart and drips with crimson blood. A sigh slips from in-between his pale lips as he falls to his knees. The side of my neck stings as his sword is removed.

Raphael pulls his sword out of the demon and grabs me by the hand. “We need to run. More of them are coming,” he tells me and pulls me along as he sprints.

The hairs on the back of my neck and arms stand on end as I run at full force. I feel the demons coming after us and move even quicker. I don’t look back. Cold, bone tingling chills crawl up my skin like spiders. Every fiber of my being is hypersensitive as adrenaline courses through mr. I’m still reeling from what just happened. I had no idea how strong I was in body and spirit before this very moment.

The arched church doors open as we near. Emma looks behind us and her eyes widen. I can only imagine what she sees. Raphael leaps in the doors with both of our swords in one of his hands. I take one big leap through; she closes the doors hard when I’m inside. Raphael holds the doors shut. Shadows flit and flash around the outside of the stain-glass windows.

Emma crouches down behind a wooden pew shaking and trembling.

A few moments later, there’s no noises coming from outside. No shadows pass in front of the windows. Raphael walks away from the doors and sits on a pew reclining.

“Where did they all go?” I ask him, but I don’t dare take my eyes off the doors.

He places the swords on the carpet in front of him. “They’re gone, but they’ll be back. We’re safe in here. Demons can’t enter a church that’s still holy,” he informs us.

I trust in his words, so I take a seat beside where Emma hides. “We’re going to have to camp out here for the night.”

 

Chapter 5 and 6 of PATH OF SHADOWS

Chapter Five: Journey (Raphael’s Point of View)

Emma, the blonde friend of Diana, busies herself just outside the laundromat with dinner. She had set up the fire and the contraption above it, so she could cook the fox squirrel a few hours ago. I watch her from inside the laundromat through the glass wall as Diana tells me about Emma and her long journey here to Ohio from South Dakota.

“We’re on our way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to find my Aunt Thea,” she says from where she stands beside me. She hands me a folded envelope she produces from out of her back pocket.

I unfold it and read:

Thea De La Cruz

1409 Wellesley Ave

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The envelope is yellowed, dirty and aged.

“It’s the only address I have of hers,” she says when I don’t respond.

“It’s quite old,” I point out and hand it back to her. “Have you considered she might not even reside there anymore? In this time and age, people move all the time.”

She strokes her Aunt’s calligraphy on the envelope with her fingertips before she returns it to her pocket for safekeeping. “I have to at least try. She may be the only family I have left.”

“What about your mother?” I wonder. “What does she have to say about this endeavor of yours?”

Her body stiffens. There’s a sadness forming on her face and fear in the depths of her eyes. I don’t understand her sudden mood change yet.

“She’s…gone,” she answers in a low voice and glances out at her friend. “Emma’s all I have left.”

We stand in silence without making eye contact. There’s no real way to say I’m sorry for her loss. My condolences won’t make her mother rise from the grave.

“What about you?” She breaks our deafening silence. “Do you have a family?”

I have a family. Every angel is my family and, by extension, mankind is too. We were all created by the same Heavenly Father. The Archangels, my brethren, and I are the closest since we all were created for the same purpose. I’ve stood side-by-side with them through war and peace since the dawn of time.

“I have three brothers and three sisters.”

She nods and hops onto one of the old washers to sit. “Where are they?”

“I can’t be sure,” I say, and lean against a dryer across from her. I gaze down at the dust build up on the dryer. Absently, I wipe at the dust with my hand. “The day of the battle, some of them were killed. Some returned to the Heavens. Others, like myself, separated and went into hiding on Earth.”

“I didn’t know,” she says in a low, apologetic tone. “I just thought for the longest time that they, your kind, abandoned us.”

There isn’t a clear way to tell her all of what happened that day, yet I feel an obligation to tell her something. I hold her gaze as I speak. “We never gave up on mankind. Unforeseen events unfolded. We had to make a choice.”

Samael, the Angel of Death’s face materializes in my mind. The sadistic grin on his face as he slaughters his brothers, the three horsemen, never fades from my memory. How the blood splatters across his face as he takes their lives twists my stomach into knots. It’s a memory I can’t erase. I can’t forget as much as I try.

Emma opens the door and pops in. “Diana, I need your help with the meat. I can’t tell if it’s done or not.”

“I’ll be right back,” Diana tells me and hops off the washer.

I watch them walk outside.

There’s no way they’ll make it across the territory borders, I know. The border into Pennsylvania, in the Plain Lands, is heavily guarded by demons. If they cross that border the demons will catch them. The sentence for an illegal crossing into another territory, especially into the ungoverned Plain Lands, is execution. If the demons discover Diana’s a Nephilim I fear her fate. Certainly, it’ll be a fate worse than a quick death.

What can I do? Explaining the dangers to them won’t stop them. I can’t force them to stay. How can I protect them? I wonder and already know the answer. I have to go with them.

Diana returns.

“I have an offer to make you,” I tell her ominously.

One of her dark eyebrows raise as she stares at me suspiciously. “What kind of offer?”

“A proposal, really,” I explain. “The border is crawling with demons. The demons from the other night are still searching for you. I’m offering to go with Emma and you across the border and help you find your Aunt. You can think of me as your personal bodyguard. In return, I want you to let me train you.”

“Why?” She wonders. I open my mouth to answer, but she rolls her eyes. “I know, I know. We’re stronger together than apart. I got it.”

“Precisely,” I say with a smile.

“What do you want to train me for?” She asks and crosses her arms over her chest. “Do you expect to run into trouble soon?”

I stand straight and approach her slowly. “I came back here to find my brethren, so we can right the wrong we made eighteen years ago by going into hiding like cowards. Because of my kind, humanity has suffered. We’ve kept to the shadows for too long. It’s time we make our stand.”

“I get all of that,” Diana unfolds her arms. “But what does any of it have to do with you training me?”

Sighing, I rest my hand beside her leg on the washer. “There’s a war coming, Diana. I can’t say there are many Angels left on Earth. We’ll need all of ones we can find.”

Her eyes round slightly as she realizes what I’m suggesting. “No. I’m not an Angel. This isn’t my fight.”

“Yes, it is,” I correct her. “You’re half-angel. Whether you like it or not, you were born into this war. The demons will come after you whether you fight on our side or not. At the very least, you need to be able to protect yourself. Let me train you.”

I’m right. She can see this much as she bites her lower lip. “Okay,” she agrees. “I accept your offer, but I’m not promising anything. What you’re asking me to do I have to think about.”

“That’s all that I ask of you.” I move away from her and return to my former position by the dryer. “Consider what I’ve said.”

The rest of the day is rather mundane.

When the sun begins to set, they get ready for sleep. Emma lays in the small room on a blanket. She rests her head on a pillow and pulls another blanket up to her head. Diana lays next to her.

“I can make a place for you to sleep for the night,” Diana offers.

Rest is a luxury I can’t possibly afford.

“No, thank you,” I decline. “I’m going to go patrol. You get some sleep. Besides, Angels hardly ever rest.”

 

Chapter Six: South (Raphael’s Point of View)

Patrol turns up no threats. I return to the laundromat and lock the door before I pull the metal guards all the way down to the floor. Making my way to the back room, I turn off the lights. The faint perfume of laundry detergent, dust, and pine sol linger in the air as I make my way down a row of dryers and washers.

Diana and Emma are fast asleep on the floor when I enter. I lean against the wall and watch them sleeping. The only sounds in the night is their breathing. Time passes and I slide down the wall. Sitting on the cold floor, I place my sword on the floor beside me.

Quietness gives me time to think and reflect. I wonder how the world would be today if we had won that day. If the prophecy had played out the way it was supposed to, if evil would’ve been defeated. The Earth would’ve been healed and made anew. Why did it have to go this way? I question myself.

The day of the battle replays in my head now. A memory I return to often with no questions answered. I recall how it all went south.

The sky recedes and glows with a blinding light as the Heavens open. Below, a crevasse splits open wide on the Earth’s surface. Demons follow their formidable master out of the abyss and onto the surface.

Michael with a pure heart and unwavering love for mankind leads the Heavenly Father’s Army of Angels out of the Heavens and into battle. A battle that’ll decide the fate of mankind.

Soaring down to Earth, I pull up and land solidly on my feet with my sword in hand burning. My former brethren, the fallen angels, lead their demons towards us. There’s an electric feeling of anticipation and determination in the air around us. Legions of angels collide with the swarm of demons. I position myself near the other Archangels, so we can destroy any Archdemons who try to stop Michael from fulfilling his destiny. We have to ensure Michael will defeat Lucifer and lift the curse from all of mankind.

The struggle tips in favor of darkness in the midst of the battle as I see Samael fighting on Lucifer’s side. He destroys my sisters and brothers without remorse. Yesterday, he was my brother in arms, but today he stands beside the enemy loyally. His betrayal astounds me. No one saw this coming.

The prophecy, thought for so long to be the only outcome, changes. I look around and see my brethren falling one by one, left and right, by the hands of demons. Grief and hate consumes me as I feel more of my brother and my sisters being stripped from the light. I destroy as many of the abominations as possible.

A demon attacks me. We fight until he stops and gazes upward. I follow his gaze and look up toward the darkened sky. Oh, mercy! I see it.

The gates of Heaven are closing.

Lucifer, followed by his Archdemons, fly up towards the closing gates. They’re too late. The Heavens are sealed off. The crevasse in the Earth gone.

“Run. Hide. Don’t return until you hear my call.” Michael orders in all of the minds of the angels. “Go now! Be well, my brothers and sisters.”

I depart from the battle and separate from the others. I’m lost. I know that until the gates of Heaven open again I’m earthbound.

 

Chapter 4 of PATH OF SHADOWS

Chapter Four: Emma (Emma’s Point of View)

She’s alright. She has to be alright, I think repeatedly, praying these words are true. Diana’s strong. She got away from those monsters. If she got away from them than why isn’t she here? I wonder, but I ignore it and keep chanting. She’s alright. She has to be alright.

My heavy eyelids beg to be shut, and my body wants to rest, but I refuse to let it. I haven’t slept a wink all night. It’s amazing how my fear the demons will return out rules my exhaustion. The laundromat, our makeshift home for the night, is silent. The only noise is the buzzing I hear from the light bulbs. I sit on the drafty ground in a small room against a washer with Diana’s sword gripped tight in my hands. The sword shakes along with my trembling hands.

Diana, where are you? I wonder.

I need her here. I need her to be safe. I don’t know what I’d do without her. She has taken care of and protected me for months. She’s all the family I have left in this world.

Waiting for her, I think of the first time I met her almost two years ago in South Dakota.

I run and don’t look back. My family’s bloody screams echo through the woods from tree to tree and in the wind. Hot tears stream down my cold cheeks and my breath is visible in the cold weather. I keep running, afraid the demons will come after me next. Miles away when the bright sun dawns I force myself to stop running. I’m safe in the daylight hours from the night creatures.

Falling to my knees in the dirt, I cry. I weep for my mother, for my father, for my older cousin Cynthia, and my little sister Candice. They’re dead. Their lives stripped from them in a flash of violence. I’m alone.

Three days of solitude follow. I walk by day in search of people and food. By night, I hide in trees or wherever I can to keep out of sight. On the third day, I come across a white two story house in the midst of the forest. There are no lights on or signs of life inside. It’s dark and I must hide. I walk up the three wooden stairs, onto the porch, and try to open the door. It’s locked, so I walk over to the window and find it’s unlocked. I crawl inside as quietly as possible and make my way to the kitchen.

I find the kitchen and walk quickly over to the fridge when I spot it. I open it and I’m thankful when I see its stock full of food and water. My stomach growls. I pull out a big piece of deer meat and shut the fridge door as I bite it.

The lights in the kitchen flip on. I jump back and notice there’s a girl my age standing in the doorway with a wooden bat held tightly in her hand. Scared, I drop the meat onto the counter and back up towards the door I entered.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to break in and steal your food,” I babble to her. My mind swirls and my heart drums on. I feel awful for violating her home, but I don’t think I had any other choice. “I thought no one lived here. I was hungry. I haven’t eaten anything in four days. I’m sorry. I’ll leave now.”

The girl gazes at me for the longest time. She sits her bat on the ground beside her and takes two steps towards me. I don’t know whether I should run or continue apologizing, so I stay frozen.

“You can stay and eat if you want,” she offers and sits at the circular table beside the counter.

I pick the meat back off the counter cautiously and join her at the table.

“Thank you,” I say in-between bites.

She watches me plow down the meat and offers me more when I’m finished. We have something in common. We’re both alone.

From that day on, I never left. She had saved my life by offering a simple courtesy.

The bell ringing above the Laundromat door, signals that someone has entered, pulls me out of the past and back into the present. I get up off the ground and tiptoe over to the door, praying its Diana.

The backroom door to the room I’m in opens before I can reach it. A man enters the room and faces me. I swing the sword at him impulsively. He’s stronger and faster than me. He reacts quickly and knocks the sword out of my hands before it can touch him. I try to recoil from him, but he wraps his arms around mine and restrains me.

“Calm down,” I hear him say.

“Let me go,” I beg and try to wiggle free.

Diana walks into the room and smiles at me.

“Diana!” I say and he releases me. I run to Diana and hug her tightly. My fears are immediately dissolved by her presence. She’s safe. She’s alright.

“Emma, are you okay? I tried to get here as fast as I could,” she tells me and looks me over for any injuries.

“I’m fine. I was worried something had happened to you. What happened after I ran?” I ask her. I glance at the guy watching us. “Who’s he?”

Diana glances at him and answers me. “It’s a long, complicated story.”

Chapter 3 of Path of Shadows

Chapter Three: Angel (Raphael’s Point of View)

The blood comes off my sword as I wash it under the faucet in the sink, yet the stain is always there. A reminder of the many demons I’ve destroyed in the name of my Heavenly Father and mankind’s redemption.

I glance over at the mattress on the floor of the small apartment building where I’d placed the girl last night after the demons dispersed. Her eyes are still shut. Her body is lax only moving up and down slightly as she breathes. The sea green paint on the wall gives me a depressing feeling, but it’s the only room I could find in the complex that wasn’t already claimed.

What are the odds of me finding a Nephilim on my fifth day back in the former United States? I’d returned to gather my brethren because we’re stronger united against the demons, yet I find an ally. Albeit, a young novice.

I turn back around and shut the water off. Grabbing a towel, I dry the blade off and see my reflection in it by chance. Something moves behind me, so I spin around and I’m too slow to react. She has a knife to my throat and her left hand grabs at the back of my neck. Those sapphire blue eyes gaze into my eyes questioning and fierce.

“What’s going on? Who are you?” She demands.

I smile and a puzzled expression pinches her face together. I’m surprised she has caught me off guard. Not many people have the stealth to outwit or surprise me. At least none that are still alive.

“Answer me,” she says.

“Raphael,” I tell her. “And what should I call you?”

There’s a pause before she answers me as she searches my face for deception.

“Diana,” she replies, but doesn’t remove the knife from my throat.

“Well, can you remove the knife? I’m not going to hurt you,” I tell her. “You do remember that I saved your life right?”

She removes the knife now. She takes a few steps away from me cautiously. She looks calm now that she’s assessed I’m not a threat to her.

“Does Diana have a last name?”

“Diana De La Cruz,” she answers and sits on a chair off to the side of where she stood. “Do angels have last names?”

I shake my head and place my sword on the countertop. I sit across from her in another chair and inch it closer to her.

“What were you doing there last night?” She question, still suspicious.

“I was on my way to the Plain Lands. I heard one of my brothers lives there. When I felt your beacon, I changed course to find you,” I tell her. “Do you know why those demons were hunting you?”

Beelzebub doesn’t just send her servants to hunt down a sixteen year old girl for nothing. Archdemons hunt Nephilims and Angels for the rewards they get from Lucifer, their master. Does Diana even know what she is?

“They were after me because I was out past curfew,” she answers quickly, but I get the feeling she knows it’s more than just because of curfew.

“Is that the only reason?” I continue to pry.

She averts her eyes from my gaze and she readjusts her sitting position. “They wanted to kill me because I’m a Nephilim.” There’s a tone in her voice that reflects anger and sadness when she says Nephilim. Something about her heritage bothers her.

“How much about your angelic heritage do you know?” I lean in closer, anticipating her answer.

She looks into my eyes now. Her gaze feels like it pierces straight into my soul—eyes of an old soul. She exhales and I pull back out of my trance. “My mother didn’t really like talking about my father. Whenever I asked her questions about him, she would change the subject. I don’t really know much about him. He left when I was three and a half. I can’t really remember him,” she says and pauses to gather her thoughts. “Look, I know I’m half-angel, but I try not to discuss it much.”

“Do you know your father’s name?” I wonder.

She shrugs. “No. I was never told who he was.”

Looking her over, I can’t pinpoint which of my brethren is her father. Her silky, wavy hair falls over her shoulders and frame her heart-shaped face. Her lips are rosy and full, probably soft to the touch. I map out every inch of her face and commit it to memory. I’m guessing she looks alot like her mother, which will make it harder to find who she descends from. I get the feeling she wants to know, but has no way of figuring it out. Luckily for her, I like puzzles and she’s a puzzle I plan on unraveling.

Abruptly she stands up. “Thanks for your help,” she says, “but I have to go.”

I stand up and block her from leaving the room. “You can’t leave. There’s a bounty on our heads.”

“What are you talking about?” She stops trying to get passed me. Lines form on her forehead as her eyebrows raise.

“Lucifer has a price on the heads of Angels and Nephilims. Any demon who finds an Angel or a Nephilim and brings them to Lucifer will be rewarded exponentially.”

She takes what I say into consideration and nods. “I’m sorry, but I have to go,” she says and tries to get around me, but I stand in her. “You can try to stop me, but I’m leaving this room. My friend’s out there somewhere scared and alone. I have to find her before the demons do.”

I know I can’t stop her. If I try to stop her again she’ll find a way to get out. Whether that means taking my life to do so or not. She’s vulnerable, defenseless against the demons. They won’t stop pursuing her until she’s taken or killed by them. Since she won’t listen to reason, I know there’s only one way I can be sure she’s safe and away from the clutches of the demons.

I reach pass her and grab my sword off the counter. “I’m going with you.”

She gazes at me for a moment. “Why? You don’t even know me.”

I move out of her way this time. “Because we’re stronger together than apart.”

 

Chapter 2 of Path of Shadows

Chapter Two: Sixteen (Diana’s Point of View)

The word echoes in my head as I turn and run once more. The demon doesn’t pursue me. He stands in the same place I left him and watches me. Nephilim, a word I haven’t heard in years. The memory of my mother calling me a Nephilim as a child comes to the forefront of my mind. My mother’s dark brown eyes gaze down at me as I play with the doll she’d made me before my birth. She smiles sadly and lifts me up into her arms.

“You are special, Diana,” she says to me in a tone that borders happiness and concern. “Diana, my Nephilim.”

The memory is one I don’t want to remember, so I shake it away and focus on the here and now. I find myself passing between two tall brown brick buildings whose paint is chipping. There’s a large metal trash bin at the end of the alley that’s overloaded with debris and trash. I come to a complete stop when I realize I’ve made a wrong turn.

“A dead end,” I say aloud.

There’s nowhere for me to go now. The only way out of the alley is the way I came in. I know I can’t go back that way because the demons will be waiting for me if I do. Every door to both buildings are locked as I try to open them. I look around spinning and try to find another means to escape, but there’s none. I stand in the alley anticipating my death, defeated.

Looking at the only way out, I see the darker than dark shadows slither across the ground. I take a few steps back as if it makes a difference. They encircle me and begin to take shape. Six of them, flesh and blood, manifest out of the night around me. I’m defenseless against so many. Their towering posture, curious stares, and demented smiles tell me they know they have me right where they want me.

I don’t shed any tears, yet I’m terrified. My fate is sealed. Death has come for me in the form of demons. Is this how I end? I wonder as I face them.

“What do we have here?” The blonde one facing me says and takes in my entire being with his eyes.

“A Nephilim. Half-angel and half-human. A rare breed,” the one beside him says.

The others are too captivated by my glowing skin and the odd symbols to add to the discussion.

“What should we do with her?” The blonde one pulls out a knife with a black blade from his back pocket and strokes the blade with the tips of his fingers as he paralyzes me with his piercing gaze.

The other one shrugs his shoulders. “She’s a Nephilim. We must take her to the Master. That’s the law,” he replies and takes a long pause before he speaks again. This time in a deeper voice. “We don’t have to bring her to him alive.”

The blonde one smiles so wide I can see his white teeth.

I want to run. I want to scream. Anything that’ll get me further from them. I need to fight, but I can’t manage to move as I’m lost in his eyes. The only movement I can do is ball my hands into fists and flex them.

They are all in agreement about what to do with me. They close in on me. The blonde one touches my arm. A cold fire spreads where he touches me. Repulsed, I try to shake his touch off, yet I’m immobile.

“This will hurt a lot,” he says. There’s sadistic undertone in his promise as he pulls his knife back to cause me untold pain.

I fight to shut my eyes and I can’t.

“Hey!” Someone yells from the entrance to the alleyway.

They look to where the voice originated. The blonde one looks away from me and breaks his hold over me. I can blink and follow their stares, but I’m too fear stricken to run.

A tall man with dark brown eyes, short untidy black hair, and a slender muscular build stands at the entrance to the alleyway with his hands behind his back. There’s no distinct expression of fear on his face as he skims the group of demons around me. He takes a step closer to us as he speaks.

“Leave the girl alone.”

The demons hiss at him when his hands fall to his side and he shows them the shiny, silver sword with a gold hilt in his right hand.

“Angel,” the blonde demon growls.

The tension building between the demons and him fills the air around me. It’s filled with a deep hatred. The demons ignore me now and focus all of their attention on him like I’m invisible to them.

“I guess the girl wasn’t alone,” the other demon says to the blonde one.

The guy walks towards them now. He looks calm and collected as he strides over to them. The demons run towards him with their weapons out. All of their hate and desire to kill is aimed at him.

He’s going to get himself killed, I think as I watch the demons go at the stranger.

He doesn’t run as they reach him. Instead of cowering or bowing out he raises his sword and attacks them as they reach him. The fierce will and warrior-like strength in his movements as he fights leaves me watching with a growing fascination. One by one he overpowers the demons and defeats them. There’s no hesitation in his attacks.

Minutes later, he rushes over to me after destroying the demons. He isn’t fazed by the glow emitting from my body. He wraps his hand around my arm and pulls me along with him down the alley.

“Now would be a good time for you to start running,” he tells me and releases his hold.

We run as fast as possible down and out of the alley. I look back and notice we’re still being followed by demons. Not the demons from the alley, but others. He leads me down a few blocks and tries to find a building that’s unlocked or unoccupied. No such luck. We cross another street with only one working lamp light.

The goose bumps all over my skin reminds me that we’re still being pursued.

He runs up to a glass door to a five story building that looks like it could’ve been a newspaper business back in the day. He tries to open the door, but we discover it’s locked. I look behind me and see the shifting shadows at the end of the street slowly inching closer.

“They’re coming,” I say to him. My voice quivers and breaks.

“Forget this,” I hear him say as he kicks at the glass door once. The glass cracks and shatters into a million tiny pieces. The shards fall onto the ground sounding like a waterfall. “Come on,” he says and pulls me into the building by the arm.

My legs grow tired as I run stair by stair up three levels on his heels. Another setback awaits us as we get to the door. It’s locked. He takes a few steps back and rams his body forward at the door. It collapses and we walk over it. We walk around the third floor. Cubicles, offices, and conference rooms are all on the third floor.

“This way.” He leads me into an abandoned office.

Inside the office, he shuts the door and takes me behind the desk. He looks out of the window at the street searching for the demons. I don’t understand why he helped me escape, or why he is protecting me now.

“Who are you?”

He turns to face me and puts a finger to his mouth shushing me.

I shut my mouth and stay still as he places his hands over my collarbone. His eyes shut close and he whispers something in a language I don’t know over and over again. I don’t know what he’s doing until I look down and see the glowing fade until it disappears. The black symbols fade away, but not into nothing. I feel them sink into my skin and attach to my bones. They become etched into my bones.

The pain is agonizing as they burn into my bones like a tattoo. I scream, but he covers my mouth with his hand tight. I try to ignore the pain, but I can’t. He wraps his arms tight around my upper body as I wither in pain. It’s the only thing he can do to keep me from convulsing, or ripping out my hair.

Outside of the door, we hear footsteps and see the shadows of the demons walking around from under the doorway. We crouch down, with his hand still covering my mouth, and hide behind the desk.

“They aren’t here,” one of the demons say. “The signal has disappeared. The angel must’ve clouded her signal. They can’t be tracked now.”

A long moment of silence passes before another demon speaks. “All we can do now is go tell Beelzebub that we saw them and see what she has to say.”

Silence comes from outside of the office. The goose bumps go away. I no longer feel cold or a sense of danger.

They’re gone, I think with relief.

He stands and removes his hand from my mouth. I stand and face him still with a burning pain in my chest like I had inhaled smoke from a fire. My throat burns with a dry sensation. He puts his sword into its sheath at his waist and turns to face me.

“What did you do to me?”

“I shielded your beacon,” he answers, and adds more to his explanation when he sees my confusion. “I carved a protection into your bones to prevent the demons from tracking you.”

The office begins to sway around me. I’m spinning and spinning, yet I’m standing completely still. I hold onto the desk for support to keep from falling. My legs quiver as they try to stay in place without giving out.

“I don’t feel so good,” I say, dizzy.

He doesn’t look surprised as I collapse to the ground on my back. I look up at him through hazy eyes. I feel light-headed as I fight to keep my eyelids open against the heaviness trying to close them.

“Happy sixteenth birthday,” I hear him say before I pass out from the pain.

 

My YA Novel: Path of Shadows

     What if the devil and his legions won the Earth at the end of the Revelations battle in the Bible? 

     Eighteen years after the big battle between the Angels and Demons, sixteen year old Diana and her friend Emma are travelling the territories (what used to be the United States) in search of her Aunt. On her birthday, Emma and her are being pursued by black wispy shadows when Raphael, an Archangel, arrives and saves them. Glowing odd, ancient symbol begin manifesting on her skin. Diana realizes her Nephilim (half human, half angel) heritage is at play.

     The three of them–an Angel, a half-angel, a human–trek across the country fending off demons to find the only family Diana has left on this Earth. Along their journey, mysteries surrounding what happened to Diana’s parents and what her role in the upcoming final battle that decides the fate of Heaven, Earth, and Hell, are revealed. As hope begins to dwindle and faith is tested, Diana and her friends must find the remaining Angels and allies on Earth who’ll with them in arms as the final battle approaches.