Another Take On Novalis
By Michael Cleveland
Dominic was beginning to get irritated.
Laurence, David, Jean and Marc were on the main floor of the council chamber having a four-way screaming match about military tactics. It had been dragging on for the past twenty minutes and no one was getting anywhere with it. Admittedly, Jean was never one to act quite as irrational as the two Malakim, but he was blinking and making facial expressions, which was always an indicator for him. Marc was relatively quiet in the midst of all of the mudflinging, but was still making his points, which of course no one wanted to hear.
'Of course, the reason that no one wants to hear this is because no one really knows how to deal with it...', Dominic thought. Novalis and her Tethers had come under assault recently, and the most recent intelligence reports suggested that elements of The Game were responsible - which was precisely why Dominic was staying out of the argument for the moment. Laurence and David would not have made issue of his 'reported associations' with Asmodeus, nor would Jean or Marc - but Michael was around the council chamber somewhere, and would probably have waded into the discussion if Dominic did...
'Then again,' Dominic thought, 'This is Michael I was thinking about. Why would he wait?'
Turning around with a quiet sigh, "Yes, Michael?"
The Archangel of War moved a little bit closer. "Tell me something - just between the two of us, did you have any advance warning that this was going to happen?"
Dominic's nostrils flared with anger, but he forced it down beneath the pool of calm that he tried to keep around him. "I resent your implication, Michael. But..." Dominic looked back at the bickering Archangels again, then turned back, "The answer is that I did know, but it couldn't help anything."
Michael rose up slightly, "You knew and you..."
Dominic raised a wingtip and pointed at Michael. "You of all people should understand how difficult it is to ascertain the validity of the intelligence we gather. Is Asmodeus planning to take the Tether of War in San Francisco? Symphony says yes. The Tether in New York? Yes. San Antonio? Yes. The list goes on - knowing that there is a threat to security does not mean that you know how or when someone is going to exploit it. For that matter, do you have three or four angels that you can send to each of Novalis's Tethers every time we confirm that an attack might be coming? I don't, and I believe none of us do. We can only afford to reinforce her when we know that an attack is imminent." Looking back at the council floor, he spoke again. "It does not make what happened less tragic, nor does it make me feel any better that Judgment had a Tether in Montreal as well, but we couldn't respond in time to stop Asmodeus."
Michael stood there for a moment, then settled back down and looked down at the council floor. "You're right. And I apologize for the implication. You did what you could." Turning to look at the Archangel of Judgment, he quirked 2 eyes up slightly. "Speaking of that subject, isn't it somewhat odd that Novalis isn't here while we're discussing how to retake her Tethers?"
Dominic looked at the room, then shrugged. "Novalis, in her typical and irritating fashion, sent me a note saying that she appreciated the thought of her big, bad warmongering brothers rushing to defend her honor, but that she was going to take care of everything and we shouldn't worry too much about it. I swear, when I read it I thought about having her brought in for a mental examination, but she's been clouding her actions and her location." Dominic sighed. "She apparently thinks she can handle it."
Michael just rolled his eyes.
Asmodeus was quite pleased - so far, over a hundred flowers had been plucked from the ranks of Heaven, and 12 of them had gone so far as to switch their loyalties. 'Not a bad day so far...' he thought. 'I doubt that Novalis will actually do something directly, but...'
The thought was suddenly interrupted when a screeching roar rang out through the Cacophony, alerting him to the impending entrance of another Superior on the Corporeal plane. 'Hmmm... Novalis must have convinced Janus or Michael to step in. No one else is that blatant.' Hearing footsteps echoing from the hallway, Asmodeus stood up from his seat and moved into the doorway.
Seeing Novalis walking down the hall in a bright red sundress, Asmodeus had to wonder why she'd been quite so blatant, but no matter. "Ah, Novalis. What a lovely surprise. What brings you calling to my door today?"
Walking right up to Asmodeus, she stopped right in front of him and looked up into his eyes. "I'm here for what's left of my Servitors, Asmodeus. They don't belong to you, you can not have them, and I'm taking them home with me."
Asmodeus looked back at her with a wry smile on his face. "Ah, but you see, my dear - possession is nine-tenths of the law. While they may be 'your' servitors, I am the one that currently holds them. If you want them back, you'll have to give me something of equal value. Seeing as how you have nothing of equal value to offer me, your other option would be to try and take them from me by force." Asmodeus shook his head slightly. "As determined as you may be, I really don't think trying would be in your best interests."
Novalis looked down at the floor for a moment, then looked back up into his eyes. "Asmodeus, are you sure that we can't come to some sort of an arrangement? We both know that I abhor physical confrontation, but I am going to take them with me when I leave."
Asmodeus shook his head. "I'm afraid not. I have what I want at the moment."
Novalis closed her eyes for a moment, then shed her vessel for her Celestial Form. "All right, Asmodeus. Have it your way. I challenge you then, for the lives of my Servitors... to a Game."
'Hmmm... she's angrier than I thought. Good.' Asmodeus thought for a second, then shed his vessel as well. "You wish to challenge me. To a Game. In the locus of my own Tether, for your servitors." Asmodeus chuckled lightly. "Very well - I accept. What, pray tell, shall we be playing?"
Novalis smiled a little bit. "Bridge."
Asmodeus scowled a little bit, then "Bridge?"
Novalis smiled a little wider, then sent a Celestial Tongues.
Jordi. Now. Like we discussed earlier.
With a positive grin, Novalis looked into the eyes of the Prince of The Game.
There was a loud disturbance as Novalis performed a song - Asmodeus couldn't be sure what it was though. Asmodeus winced a little bit, 'What is she -'
Then came The Light.
The Song of Celestial Locations is known both for its ability to create a Temporary Tether to the domain of the singer, and for its nickname - The song of Bridges. Asmodeus would normally have remembered that and taken it for a particularly bad joke, were it not for the Light of Heaven that was streaming down onto his Celestial Form and further down the Tether Locus into Dis. After several nanoseconds of excruciating pain, the realization struck him that if he did not drop to Dis and shut that end of the Tether down, the Light of Heaven would be streaming down the Tether for who knows how many hours, and that would bring the attention of the other Princes and the Lightbringer in a most unfavorable light.
Snarling, "I'll see you burn for this!" Asmodeus jumped down the Tether and started to destroy the lower locus rather than shield it. As he began lashing away at it, he heard a voice come down from the the Top Locus.
"Does this mean I win?"
Asmodeus just lashed all the harder, snarling. The Light of Heaven wouldn't destroy the Tether - in point of fact, he knew that his Word was quite strong there now, but there was something repugnant about the source of a Capital Tether's Word Strength being that it was the site where the Archangel of Flowers had outplayed the Prince of The Game...
Dominic was still listening to the War Faction argue on the council floor when he noticed Novalis quietly take a seat at a table. As he walked over, he saw her pull out a deck of cards and start to play Solitaire.
Putting his 'hands' on the table and leaning forward to look into the eyes of the Archangel of Flowers, "Novalis, I know that you find their arguments as boring as I do, but this is no time for games."
Novalis looked at Dominic for a second, then started chuckling and putting the cards away. "Whatever you say, Dominic. Whatever you say."
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