You always hear about the MC and his or her allies, but who are they up against? Here is a little taste of terror from Chapter Two in Soul Quest. Meet Shyam, Avna, Etheline and Lefu.
Aengels and Daevas
Time - September 10, 2001 (the eve of 911)
Place - The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Manhattan, New York
"Be sober, be vigilant;
because your adversary
the devil, as a roaring lion,
walketh about seeking
whom he may devour."
- Bible, 1 Peter v. 8
Etheline frowned at herself in the mirror. She was never exactly beautiful in her human form but now she was morbidly grotesque. Her hair was once a shiny, softly curling, platinum blond. Now it looked stringy, bleached and brittle. She remembered how interesting her hazel eyes looked when the sunlight spilled into them. Now they took on a dull flat black. Her skin was always fair but now her pale skin could make a corpse look healthy. Avna noticed her scowling at herself in the large mirror in the foyer of the hotel suite.
"Don't fret my sweet. It won't last forever. I was even uglier than you in my Aengel form. I'd compare the process to the life cycle of a butterfly. You are no longer a lowly larva. You are changing, a chrysalis of evil. Once you have taken enough human souls to complete the change you will become a Daeva, beautiful and powerful, just like yours truly." she laughed wickedly, sweeping her lovely, fiery red ringlets behind her shoulder as she admired herself in the mirror.
She was more than beautiful now. Her porcelain skin glowed against her dazzling, onyx eyes and flaming red curls. Yes, she remembered Etheline's gruesome plight well. She remembered a dull gray face with charcoal for eyes framed with limp, orange, wiry hair. Ew! All is well that ends well, she thought. Etheline glared at her.
"See!" Avna gestured toward herself in the mirror. "No worries." she bragged.
"Not for you." Etheline spat back. "Did you infect me just so you could torture me until my transition is complete?" Etheline whined.
"Don't be like that, my pet." she purred. Etheline hated it when Avna referred to her as her pet. It was degrading to her.
"Besides, we have far more important matters to concern ourselves with, my dear, do we not?" she prompted.
"Yes Avna. I know that. Has Shyam received confirmation from the humans yet?" Etheline asked.
"Not yet, but it shouldn't be much longer." Avna replied. "If this plays out the way we suspect those incompetent humans will end up doing half the job for us." Avna snickered.
"Do you really think they will take the bait so easily Avna?" Etheline wondered.
"Of course they will. The stupid humans haven't even an inkling of suspicion about our kind. They will blame each other for this 'so called' tragedy." she sneered. "They will go to war and blow each other to kingdom come. Afterward we can devour the aftermath, a buffet of souls practically served to us on a silver platter." Avna cackled wildly. Etheline joined in her laughter. This was going to be so easy. "Where is Lefu?" Avna asked suddenly, realizing she hadn't seen him in awhile.
"He’s hunting. There is a group of drunks in the alley behind the hotel, a mere appetizer to tide us over until the main course that you have described comes to pass." Etheline said in anticipation.
"Good. I'm in need of some refreshment. They will have to do for now." Avna approved.
"I'll raise five souls to your one." Lefu wagered Etheline around a hand of poker.
Shyam still awaited confirmation from the humans. He paced back and forth in front of the bar, brandy in hand. All would have seemed utterly normal had the two not been wagering the souls of humans. They kept tally on a tablet of paper because they could not think of anything significant enough to symbolize a human soul. There was no amount of money, rare jewels, real estate or any material possession that could outweigh the worth of a human soul. Lefu was every bit as eager to complete the transition as Etheline. As Etheline pondered his wager he recalled the tedious efforts necessary to lure the handful of homeless humans to their hotel suite earlier that evening. It wasn't too difficult. After all, they were without shelter and food. It had been raining so he had tempted them back to the room with promises of new, dry clothes, a warm meal and wine. Sadly, he probably could have just offered the wine and they still would have come. Alcoholism... he thought. He'd put them out of their misery, not that he cared. Yes they were desperate, he'd thought. Even after taking in the sight of him they had still agreed to come. Lefu wasn't nearly as put off with his Aengel appearance as Etheline was. He was used to being looked upon as homly, or even worse. During his human years he had been in an accident as a small child that left him scarred, disfigured and crippled. True, his once jet black silky hair was now a dull gray and his deep chocolate brown eyes and skin looked of chalky soot. Now however, the hump in his back and the limp in his walk seemed less pronounced. In fact, with every human soul he consumed he grew stronger. His body seemed to be righting itself. Yes he looked forward to the day when he could glide in a walk with his back straight and his shoulders pulled back. He was sick and tired of feeling old and haggard. He would not be a victim anymore. No one would pity him ever again. Shyam promised him this and so he'd agreed to the infection. Good thing too because now he realized had he not Shyam would have killed him and consumed his soul instead.
"I'll raise you eight souls to your five." Etheline interrupted.
"Damn!" he cursed. Was she bluffing he wondered.
Avna heard his cursing and strolled into the room, curious to the situation. She found them wagering souls in the sitting area. The patio doors that led out to the balcony were open allowing a light, cool breeze to sweep into the room. It felt nice so she relaxed a bit. The waiting for confirmation was beginning to take its toll on everyone's nerves.
"Lefu, I was very impressed with your catch earlier this evening." she teased.
"Perhaps you used a bit of compulsion?" she laughed.
She was making fun of him. They all knew he would not gain the compulsion ability until he completed the transition. A smirk drew on Etheline's lips as well.
"Yeah, you're all so damned hilarious! Why don't you send your resume and head shot over to ‘Stand Up New York’ while you're at it? You could be the next Chevy Chase." he retorted. "Of course the head shot would probably guarantee your application being designated to the bottom of the circular file Etheline." he sneered gesturing to the round waste basket beside the desk.
Everyone boasted a laugh except Etheline. They were quickly silenced by the sound of Shyam's ring tone, Back in Black by ACDC. This was it. Shyam continued to pace back and forth in front of the bar as he nodded and grunted into his cell phone. He was a dangerously handsome man with sleek, black hair and the same glowing porcelain skin of Avna. His eyes too were a radiant onyx, mesmerizing and enticing in all their mystery. No person, human or otherwise, could deny him his desires. This was what they did, he and Avna. They used compulsion to delude the humans. Their beauty would lure them in allowing them to compel them into whatever task they required of them. The Aengels were merely their servants while they forged toward their completed transition. Etheline and Lefu brought them souls for consumption, fuel for energy. They were all young in appearance, but Shyam and Avna were centuries old. Etheline and Lefu would join their ranks one day if they succeeded in completing the transition. The Aengels were more vulnerable. True they were stronger and faster than humans but nothing compared to Shyam and Avna, true Daevas. They could slash through flesh and bone, even metal with their teeth and fingernails, but their bodies were closer to the fragility of a human. Unlike Shyam and Avna, nothing human could threaten them. Even human weaponry was not fast or powerful enough to destroy them. This is why it was their job to manipulate the humans. It had been all too easy for them to set up the disastrous event planned for the next day. A militia of compelled humans would hijack four airplanes and cause a global disaster that would induce doubt, fear, and weakened faith into the hearts of millions for years to come. This was their real plan. As overwhelming as it would seem to the humans the death toll from 911’s events would be next to nothing to the Daevas. However, it would plant the seed of evil. It would seal the fate of the humans dipping the scales from good to evil. This would allow them more power, more control, an expansion of rank. They would rule the world at last. Shyam snapped his cell phone closed.
He turned to face his accomplices and with a wicked edge to voice he announced firmly, "We are ready."