Shadows of the Soul by Angelique Armae - Romance>FantasyWhen two souls born on opposite sides of the battle between Heaven and Hell, team up to find a sacred antidote to a supernatural disease, the balance between good and evil are forever altered.
Isabel Godfroie Heart is a Paradisian Scholar-an immortal human trained in the ways of Heaven and Hell-who's suffering from memory loss. During her last battle, a dark force erased specific portions of her past life memories. Now she remembers little of times past, save for the fact she's a demon slayer mentored by the archangel Gabriel. When ordered to a new post to help translate a volume of ancient text from a forbidden verse, Isabel is forced to work with the dark prince Nicolai Valentine, a soul who may or may not be responsible for her memory loss. If only she didn't find the tempting creature so hard to resist…
Born to a fallen angel and a mortal mother, Nicolai Valentine is a prince of the Grigorcov, the children of the fallen sons of God. Searching for the lost chalice that will save his kin from eternal damnation, Nicky unknowingly unleashes the Hadean Virus, a dark entity targeting members of the Grigorcov. Now the entity has been unleashed on man's world and Nicky's in a race against time to find the antidote that will stop this deadly parasite. But in order to keep the Hadean virus from attacking again, Nicolai must enlist the help of Isabel Godfroie Heart, the Paradisian Scholar he was unable to save from the wrath of Hell centuries ago…
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“Trapped in the midst of battle between Heaven and Hell, the mortal plain has a unique advantage over the Damned. It has on its side a select breed of immortal humans known as Paradisian Scholars. These men and women are demon hunters, fluent in the language of angels and have been trained by the Seven Archangels of the Celestial Triad.”
- Translated from The Codex Paradisus, ca. unknown
Midtown Manhattan, present day…
Trouble greeted me the moment I entered Saint Gabriel’s Abbey. The church bell tolled midnight, but the left alcove was lit like daylight. Six hundred sixty six candles illuminating on their own is never a good sign. I knew that specific number, because the archangel Gabriel insisted that the task of keeping the count exact fall only to me. Otherwise I might’ve been able to play ignorant to that little greeting from the Devil.
My name is Isabel Godfroie Heart and I’m a Paradisian Scholar.
I make my living fighting evil. Damned, non-human entities are my constant companions.
Toying with them entertains me.
So when Gabriel asked for a bit of help in the housecleaning department, I was happy to oblige. Dark souls don’t belong on hallowed ground. And I do a damned-good job at sending them off with a bang.
Built as a sanctuary to accommodate mortal regiments trained by angels, the abbey had recently become the favored hot spot for demons and cursed entities. A few damned souls wouldn’t have been much of a concern. After all, Gabriel does allow the Devil a bit of elbowroom every now and then. But lately Satan pushed his brother’s hospitality to the limits. The flood of sudden unexpected guests from the ethereal plain alarmed me and despite days of searching for answers, I still hadn’t a clue as to why they picked here and now to show themselves.
My experience told me that Hellish spawns rarely enter man’s world without warrant, and failing to find the reason why disturbed me. The situation also didn’t sit well with my mentor Gabriel, the abbey’s namesake and guardian. Concerned, he assembled the Gothic Garrison and handed out orders to each member.
He designated the graveyard shift as mine and mine alone. One hunter to a thousand demons. The archangel’s twisted rationale just forced me to love him. No one else would’ve assigned a single scholar to a field laden with dark evil souls and not even warned them with so much as a ‘watch where you step’.
Gabriel knew me well and he always obliged me. He also provided for my uncommon needs without question and tonight was no exception.
Stepping further into the abbey, I unclasped the leather wrist cuff from my right arm, forcing the brand underneath to swell. The skin-puckering action, accompanied by a searing sensation, made my flesh tingle. Raising the mark revealed my presence to unseen entities incapable of viewing the world as mortals did. Cursed creatures don’t use their eyes to see; they sense other souls.
If the demons that invaded St. Gabriel’s didn’t pick up on my true identity before, they certainly knew now who’d come looking for them.
The corner niche was Satan’s little sanctuary. The one place on consecrated ground Gabriel allowed his fallen brethren total domain. But by no means was the space meant to be an open door for all of Hell’s demented souls.
Admittedly, the arrangement was a bit twisted, but it kept me gainfully employed. An opportunity this Brooklyn-born girl thanked both Heaven and Hell for.
Eager to evict the night’s resident evil, I inched my way down the center aisle and scrutinized the area for the presence of diabolical souls and hexed entities. I sniffed for the dark nasty smelling vapors that were a demon’s calling card, but the area scanned clean. I expanded my search.
Keeping one step ahead of the damned, I jumped onto the wooden bench and maneuvered over the shellacked seats. Walking across the slippery surface proved a chore in high-heeled boots, but I managed. Reaching the end of the pew, I stepped down and slid into the church’s outer aisle. A single white orb skirted past me, a good sign I’d landed on sacred ground. St. Gabriel’s had a built in safety net, an outer rim directly blessed by the powers of Paradise. The holy space served best for detecting ethereal beings, so I kept within the abbey’s perimeter.
The small globe of light faded away.
A cold caress kissed my arm.
I spun around expecting to see a demon’s shadow near by but found nothing. My invisible enemies were in a mischievous mood, matching my every move with a haunting taunt. Their typical tricks disappointed me. I’d hoped for a bit more sport, but knew better than to voice that option out loud as I continued toward the front of the church.
The lights flickered.
The abbey fell dark.
My sixth-sense kicked into high gear.
Popping into Lucifer’s niche unawares didn’t make for good demon hunting. Neither did getting my ass fried for sheer stupidity, a lesson I learned firsthand when a demonic warlord named Dreadacus stole a big chunk of my memory.
That little incident keeps me more than just enough pissed to continue pursuing the vile creatures I stalk. Remaining madder than hell is a good thing in my line of work.
Moving along, I listened to the heavy rain pelting the arched windows. A flash of lightning illuminated the stained glass and sent a rainbow of shadows dancing across the chamber. The colorful images invaded my path but didn’t deter me.
The foul scent of demons, similar to sulfur, now dominated the air.
The noxious odor overpowered the waft of spicy incense from the abbey’s swinging thuribles. The smoking censer served to purify and eradicate wicked entities and evil essences from the air.
Apparently this time the sacred relic had failed.
A second later the canister swung back like a hexed pendulum, the kind you’d expect to see in a cheap horror flick. I ducked and avoided a head-on collision.
It dipped from the ceiling once more and glided a hair’s breadth past my face.
This time a whiff of perfumed smoke caressed my cheek.
My nose twitched as a burning sensation assaulted my throat.
Another gust of sulfur permeated the vicinity.
I gripped the swords at my sides and stepped away from the wall. Not to brag, but when I pack heat, I don’t fool around. Forged from the essence of thunder and lightning, the weapons contain an otherworldly mix of metal and Heavenly elements. A deadly combination needed to fight Hell’s demons. I dragged the swords along the floor. Metal clanged against stone and the sound echoed about the church like a continuous rumble of thunder. The sharp pointed blades marred the abbey’s floor, deep tracks left in their wake.
The demon scent grew stronger.
I refused to stop.
The marble font by the main doors, large carved panels at the back of St. Gabriel’s Abbey, now toppled over. I silently thanked the demons for that little tantrum, as the holy water, flowing like a thin river through the floor’s sword-made cuts, trailed my steps. The blessed liquid, acting as a barrier, protected me from being ambushed.
The front altar remained only a few steps away.
Near the tabernacle, unseen enemies waited in the shadows. Their spectral energies teased my senses.
The hair at the nape of my neck stood on end.
Screeching voices, sounds akin to TV static, echoed from beyond the grave and filled my head with a thousand whispered words all at once. Thanks to a few dabs of holy oil behind each earlobe, tuning out the very vocal undead was a piece of cake. The noise ceased almost instantly.
Gray, hazy forms rose up from the flaming wicks at Lucifer’s candle stand.
The shadows on the outer rim concealed my exact location. I focused on the barren altar. Swords alone wouldn’t obliterate my enemies, nor would the workings of any one-belief system. One by one, relics from various religions appeared on the cloth-covered table. Among them sat a pentacle, a Star of David, a cross, even a set of Tibetan Mala beads.
The sacred items flew toward me, accessorizing my leather catsuit. The cross, the star and the pentacle now dangled from a single cord around my neck, while the Mala beads circled my wrist.
Decked out in religious armor, a surge of powerful energy shocked through my body.
The zap nearly knocked me to my knees.
I approached the altar, knelt, and then prostrated myself.
With a single flick of the wrists, my swords ascended to both sides of my body, coming to rest mere centimeters from my fingers.
Several seconds ticked by. The cold, rough stone numbed my cheek as the heady scent of burning incense mingled with smoldering candlewick assaulted my nose.
The constant drip of melting wax whispered a tormenting lullaby. The familiar sensations pricked at my nerves and teased every fiber of my being with a tempting desire to escape the agony assaulting me.
Yet despite the tingling in my numbing limbs, I knew better than to rise from my prone position.
Unseen enemies stood in the shadows.
One wrong move and I’d be toast.
A slight rumble shook the earth.