The Centurion Cycle: Book Three ~ Angels Ascending

Chapter Twenty~Four: Angels Ascending ~ Crusade

Undergoing the change from Famulus to Angel had put a lot of stress on Aidan's body, leaving him bedridden for weeks. When he was finally ready to get back on his feet, it was to discover that major changes had occurred while he had been recuperating. As he walked through the tunnels of the monastery, he found both Dorian's Centurions and his own personal bodyguard covered with strange black and red markings, their eyes glowing with red fire.

"What has been happening?" Aidan asked the nearest of his men.

"You need to talk to Amplexor, your majesty." The man bowed.

"What happened to your body?"

"Dorian…" was the man's one word response before running off.

The whole monastery was alive with activity. The snow had all melted and the roads were just drying out. Men were busy filling wagons with supplies as if they were planning on leaving soon.

Going to the chapel, Aidan found Amplexor supervising the transport of his lover's coffin to the wagon that waited outside.

"What is going on?" Aidan demanded.

"Civil war has broken out. You are needed back at Meltor," Amplexor explained.

"What?"

"Most of Admiral James's officers were arrested by the High Inquisitor on charges of heresy and are in the capital to face execution. The Admiral brought the armada back to the capital to rescue his men, but he was betrayed and is now with his officers awaiting execution. High Priest Niles is threatening to excommunicate the army still loyal to the Admiral… that is over eighty thousand men. If you can't stop the execution, there will be a war that will destroy Jadoor." "What about my men… their eyes, the markings on their bodies."

"That was Dorian's doing. He has been very busy converting all of them into his Demon Spawn."

"Demon Spawn?"

"The bonded children of a Demon."

"My men?" Aidan said, panicked.

"Your men are now unbeatable. We will need them if we are to stop this conflict from spreading," Amplexor explained.

"Where is Dorian?"

"I am here," Dorian said in labored Jadoorian as he came from behind Aidan

"My men?" Aidan asked his dark-skinned lover.

"Stronger… better." Dorian grinned.

"They don't look human!"

"What do I look like?" Dorian grunted.

"Like a god... a true Son of the Mother." Aidan grinned, unable to resist his lover's appearance. Aidan even reached behind Dorian and played with the stub of what appeared to be the beginnings of a tail.

"They are my children. Please treat them as such," Dorian said in a pleading voice.

"I will," Aidan agreed as he rested his head on Dorian's massive chest.

"You need children too," Dorian sighed as he held Aidan tight to him. He led Aidan to one of the bedrooms, where Diana stood, looking lost. "I saved her for you. Make her your child."

"My child?" Aidan asked confused.

"Kiss her. Give her your anima."

"Alright…" Aidan nodded going over to Diana, shocked by how empty she looked.

"Aidan," Diana said, his eyes containing a pleading look.

"Yes." "Please kiss me," Diana begged. "I want to be a part of your life."

"I will," Aidan agreed. He did not know what had happened to his old lover, but the woman looked more broken than when she had lost her spot as Prime Minister. "Now why did you want my anima?" he asked after he had given her his kiss.

"It will turn me into a Saint, your spiritual protector."

"Is that what you want?" Aidan asked concerned.

"Yes… I miss you. I know that Dorian is your soul mate, but I still want to be part of your life," Diana explained as the color faded from her skin and her eyes picked up a white glow.

"You did not have to do this, Diana," Aidan insisted as he saw her face take on a pained look, a pair of black wings ripping out of her body.

"It was the only way." Diana replied.

"The only way for what?" Aidan demanded.

"According to Amplexor… it was the only way you would make love to me again."

"Not true!" Aidan said defensively even though he could not remember the last time he had.

"Then make love to me now, my king."

"But…" Aidan said, as he looked at Dorian's face.

"Make love to her… there's time," the Demon urged.

Taking Diana's hand, Aidan led his Saint to one of the monk's cells, closing the door after him.

From the very start of the trial, James knew what the verdict would be. He was amazed, however, that it took the ecclesiastic court two weeks to reach its decision… purification by fire or, put more simply, burned at the stake. It even took two days for the court to go from officer to officer, list his crimes, bemoan the man's lack of repentance, and expound on how the Mother would be their final judge. Each officer of the court made several long speeches.

Just as James knew he would be declared guilty, he also knew that he would be the last man sentenced. Standing in the box of penitence, dressed in the red robes of the guilty, the Admiral glared defiantly at his two judges, the High Inquisitor Warren and High Priest Niles.

Standing up to bring silence to the courtroom, Warren read the Church's decision. "Under the gaze of the Mother, and by the holy laws she passed on to us, this court has found you, James Warwick, Admiral of the fleet, guilty of heresy, more specifically, sins committed by the body, and for raising arms against the Church of the Mother. For these crimes your body should be purified by fire but…due to your past service to the Church, we have decided to give you this one chance to repent and join the Church as a sworn brother."

James had known he would be given this "out". The night before, Warren had come to his cell, offering him one last chance to serve him and lead his men in overthrowing Niles. The High Inquisitor did not ask for a reply. He said he would wait until the Admiral was faced with his death.

James had thought long and hard what his reply would be. So, when it came for him to speak, he took a deep breath before pronouncing the first word. "I repent…"

"Then you shall be forgiven…" Warren grinned, believing the man was finally broken, but James had a lot more to say and did not stop talking.

"I repent that I allowed you to attempt to seduce me in the bathhouse. I repent for failing in my duty to the fleet, and falling into your trap. I repent for not seeing how you broke some of my men with your torturers. Finally, I repent that I ever thought of joining you, Warren, in removing High Priest Niles for your own gains. I support the end of the persecution of my fellow gay men, but I will not resort to the tactics you are willing to use to achieve that end."

The fact that James had enough self-will to defy him left Warren too stunned to stop the Admiral before it was too late. Hearing the sound of heavy breathing next to him, Warren turned to see the furious red face of High Priest Niles.

"We will discuss this later," Niles warned, as two of his guards went to stand behind the cowering High Inquisitor. The High Priest then returned his attention back to James. "I find no repentance in your statements, so your sentence will stand. Tomorrow at noon, you and your fellow sinners shall be purified by fire. May the Mother forgive you and welcome you into her arms."

With the final banging of the gavel, James was led out of the courtroom and into Temple Square, where the holding pens were set up for the condemned men. The six wooden cages were arranged in a hexagon and were crammed full with over two hundred men.

James, not finding Kyle in the same cage with him, moved to the center where he shouted his name. Soon, Kyle was looking across at his lover.

"Why are you in here with us? I thought Warren would offer you a deal!" Kyle demanded.

"I turned him down and told Niles about his plans to betray him. I would not be surprised to see the High Inquisitor join us soon," James said, as he took measure of the distance separating him from him lover. "I wish I could hold you now."

"I know… we have so little time left. Do you think the army will come to our rescue?"

"Make it past all three walls to the center of the city?"

"There are the royal guards at the palace," Kyle pointed out.

"Yes, but look, Niles has a small army guarding the gate. Our rescue will not come from that direction," James replied, hating to take away the little hope Kyle had of surviving.

"Then I guess we will die tomorrow."

"Yes… and I am fine with that. I mean, if it takes facing death to find the one person you can't live without, I would have to say it is a fair trade."

"Not me… now that I know that I love you, I don't want it to end," Kyle admitted.

"But at least we will be together."

"Yes."

Reaching through the cage, James tried to reach Kyle. Together, with their arms outstretched their fingers could just touch.

"I love you," James promised, his eyes frozen on Kyle's.

"I love you too," Kyle agreed.

The two maintained the contact for as long as possible but then their arms became tired, forcing them to pull back. During the night before their execution, the two continued to talk, fantasizing a life they would have had together.

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