Stolen Season

chapter four: one weak

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Medenham, 1762

She clawed the door even though she no longer had any nails left in her fingers. Blood stained the door; wooden splinters penetrated her flesh and drew out pain and whimpers from the crying girl. She didn't stop trying though, she wouldn't give up! She wasn't deranged or faulty; her mind was crystal clear. But he didn't believe her. He kept her locked up here day after day, giving her little to look forward to. That drunken despicable man! How could he do this?

Esther collapse crying again, squeezing her fingers inside the hem of her dress that was soon stained in blood as well. Her hair was entangled, dirty, seeing as she hadn't been given a chance to bathe or wash herself for months now. The attic was cold and it stunk and she hated being kept there. They'd covered the walls during their last visit to hide the pictures she'd drawn. It was the pictures that'd made him go berserk to begin with. He'd muttered vicious words, calling her mother a whore and a witch and looked at her with utter despise.

She just wanted things to be as they had been before. She'd been allowed to go outside, play with her mother's things, and wear her old clothes so that no matter what she did she would feel close to the woman she'd never met. The servants – all unfamiliar with her mother, but having served here since her birth – had raised her and made sure she was fine. And when she'd strayed, occasionally on purpose as well, he'd been there to take her back home – Baraqiel, her protector.

He'd tell her things about her mother, speak of wonders she'd never seen. No matter what she'd wanted, her wishes had never been beyond his power to fulfill. No matter had been too little to obtain his attention. He was the parent her father could've never been since his decadence had begun. Baraqiel said he was unable to go on without her mother and that she'd held him together. She liked believing such romantic notions, but was more than aware by now that he didn't want to tell her everything. At the age of sixteen, Esther knew more than well that the beautiful man she'd grown to love was preparing for something, a separation that made both their hearts ache.

It'd begun when he'd first taken her to see that dark man, Azazeal, as the stranger had introduced himself. Things had changed after that rather innocent encounter. Baraqiel had become troubled and sad. He'd vanished for long periods of time and come back with a distant look in his eyes. He'd looked beaten; his lively spirit defeated like an invisible force was holding him back. Esther had seen Azazeal again and he'd approached her differently, making her insides stir with each word and look. She hadn't been able to stop thinking about him.

She'd tried to make sense of things when everything was suddenly going wrong. Accidents had happened, and she'd been struck down by fear. Visions of Azazeal had haunted her after she'd found her mother's urn. Voices of advice had told her to resort to unusual measures in keeping him away, keep his tricks from reaching her. They were tricks decent people knew nothing of and could only be warded off by strange methods: crosses and hair entangled hair together, speaking backwards. It hadn't worked for he'd noticed and warned her not to play with him. He'd kissed her and the anguish grew deeper and deeper. Her father, having glanced at the drawings she couldn't even realize having drawn, had grown outraged and locked her up. She'd wanted to see Baraqiel, but no one knew who she was talking about!

Her sobs became quieter again as she gained control over her raging emotions. Even if she hated it here at least she didn't need to see him again. Being around Azazeal muffled the voice of her thoughts, covered everything in fog. She wasn't herself around him; she got bold and rude and modesty and all her manners vanished as soon as she was made to look at him. A part of her repelled him, but at the same time another part embraced him!

She didn't even realize when Baraqiel appeared next to her, she was too deep in her own world. She could barely breathe for so deep the anguish of her current situation was. It made her dysfunction and lay down, broken. He took her hands in his, looked through her injury and tears glimmered in those eyes she loved. Without saying a word she pushed herself in his arms, disbelieving that he was finally here after she'd called for his name so many times without an answer. If he'd been a dream or a hallucination she would've surely given up for good.

"Don't cry, Esther," he pleaded, raking through her hair with his hand while the other held her still in his arms. He'd kneeled to the floor to hold her, calm her down, but his guilt wasn't removed by any sweet gesture he performed. He'd left her unshielded by request of his master. He was the cause of her pain, of this nightmare she'd dwelled for much too long. She'd waited for him, called out to him in vain. She was his to protect, no matter who she truly belonged to.

"Forgive me for leaving you," he whispered, tightening the hold he had of her. He'd never left her since she'd been born. It'd been his duty to stay by her side, fight any enemy who wanted to harm her, keep her away from people. He'd been a decadent angel; roused by Rachel's antics the humans had labeled witch craft. Women, men, rituals, drugs, no matter what she'd come up with he'd followed. But when Azazeal had shot her to pieces with his malice and she'd lost the little sanity she had left all that had lost meaning. She'd had a child, a daughter meant to bear Azazeal's child and he was to take care of her.

"Why is this happening?" She asked him, unsure if he would even give her an answer. He served Azazeal didn't he? His loyalties were with that dark creature and not with her like she'd always believed. But she couldn't be mad at him, couldn't abandon him. He was her cherub, a friend that only belonged to her.

"Your father wants to punish you because you, just like your mother, are being seduced by Azazeal," he replied, refusing to look at her while they spoke. It was better to look away, not be reminded of the harm he'd caused her.

"You serve him."

He was truly beginning to wish he didn't, but he couldn't lie, couldn't deny his duty so he nodded. "Has God abandoned me Baraqiel?" She questioned, pulling away from him enough to look at his face. His eyes were shadowed by his dirty blonde hair, which was all real and not a wig like the men she was used to seeing wore. Handsome, tortured, clearly torn between his duty and her: How could she do him anymore harm?

"Perhaps," he said blinking, shifting his gaze uncomfortably. "I'll keep you safe, Esther, I promise," he proceeded to vow. She couldn't stay here anymore – even Azazeal had to see that. He'd approached her too young, she wasn't ready to be tempted like that! In a few years time, yes, if only he could take her away and then return her in a few years time…

All those years in damnation, being disowned by God, hunted down every time he got to escape the Abyss, he'd never considered Azazeal's way evil or wicked. He'd never questioned Azazeal's lead, even when they'd acted against God! And just for her he wanted to change. It was unreal.

She glanced at her fingers again; winced because the pain upon moving them, and made him snap out of his thoughts. He reached out for his pockets, and drew out a long white ribbon that he began wrapping around her hands. She observed him: the endearing commitment she recognized in him. For that moment she was sure nothing could ever harm her again.

-

The Present

Truth be told, he was glad to be out of Medenham. Ill memories dwelled there underneath his enthusiasm, which was caused by the decadent environment that reminded him all too clearly of the time when Rachel had still been alive. He'd tried hard, focusing on the underlying extravagance of his nature that'd been his defining trait so many centuries ago. He'd thought about adventures, vine and vices but in the end they'd all remained but distant whispers when compared to the screams of the past that still filled the halls.

He'd been to the attic, seen the drawings, and smelled the blood that'd been spilled there. He'd stood by that tree, finding Azazeal there as well, contemplating heavy thoughts. He was sure Azazeal had regrets; even felt sorrow when he stood by that grave, but Azazeal had moved on and found new prey. He'd even learned from his mistakes so now everything was perfect; the past was forgotten and along with it the terrible atrocities that'd taken place here.

But she was there as well. She had not vanished into the labyrinth of time. She lived.

He'd smirked when he'd seen her, but the façade had disappeared when she had been out of his sight. He'd watched them condemn her! She should've died suffering like the ones she'd killed had. Yet Ella was here, mocking him with her continuing existence. She'd nearly killed him when he'd recklessly attacked her, overcome by his blind rage. Nothing and everything was the same as it'd been before: Him and her fighting, and Azazeal's witch standing between them.

He'd had to have known she was still here, so the question remained why hadn't he told him? How could've Azazeal kept this from him? Baraqiel had been wondering why Cassandra needed such protection. Why indeed when the Anointed bitch was supposed to be dead? Perhaps because she was still breathing her every breath for the purpose of destroying every last Nephilim in the name of God's tainted angels? They were too scared to face the fallen, so they sent a good witch, a lapdog to Raphael's wishes.

Baraqiel was beyond angered. He almost wanted to sleep again, walk the happier miles of his existence during those years. But he couldn't hide away, couldn't simply forget.

He sighed, sitting down on the one chair in the room and turned his gaze on her again. Cassandra was sleeping over the sofa, exhausted by their travel through space. Humans weren't built to withstand the passing through such powers, at least not properly. Actually now that he was close and really focused she didn't look anything like Esther, or Rachel. The hair was the same whereas the rest was different, almost foreign to him. Good, he was glad that at least one thing didn't remind him of those times. He'd had enough of reminiscent for awhile.

She moved unconsciously, shifted just enough for the jacket he'd placed on her to fall. He rose, reached her with a few steps and pulled it back over her shoulders. She was precious to Azazeal unlike some of his former lovers. He would not take any harm that'd befallen on her lightly, Baraqiel knew that much. She'd made Azazeal's appearance reveal disturbing things to the fallen angel upon their meeting.

Concern – since when had Azazeal felt actual concern for any human? Herath maybe, but that was a long time ago. Baraqiel had begun to believe Azazeal was drained from affection, because of the treatment God had given him. Yet he was obviously quite attached to his son as well, which contradicted Baraqiel's earlier judgment to his indifferent character.

Baraqiel leaned back in his chair, stared out the window and into the fields that surrounded their little haven for now. Things looked rather cloudy from here on.

Cassie had been awake for some time now, albeit completely exhausted from their escape. She had time to think things over while he did the same. She felt bitter inside, guilty for being the cause of Felix's death, but for some reason she couldn't bring herself to really blame the Nephilim by her side. He was following orders wasn't he?

"You had no right to kill him," Cassie whispered sullenly, finally revealing her conscious state to him. He might've known all along, needed time to think equally, for she saw no surprise in his eyes when she peeked at him through the veil of her hair.

"I made a mistake. I thought he was hurting you," the angel answered, sounding particularly indifferent. Apparently he didn't value human life like she did, just felt sorry for causing unnecessary inconvenience. She pressed her teeth together, tried to swallow the information and stop blaming herself. Yet the truth was he'd been sorry when he'd crawled to her, forced her to look into his eyes. She knew he had.

"Azazeal had no right to make you hunt down people I care about," she shot back eyes flaming with pure rage. But more than the tool of Azazeal's will she was angry at the Nephilim leader himself. He was on a path to deprave everyone from her life and it'd started already when she was young. He'd manipulated her mother and who knew what the story was with her father? Azazeal had done everything in his power to control the outcome, shape her into something he could control.

He avoided looking at her, clearly uncomfortable with the situation. Baraqiel had imagined what his first words to her might've been. They'd been comforting, almost gentle in his head. But fate had intervened and one grave error had been enough to spark hatred between them. Their meeting couldn't have gone more wrong than it had. Now she would unable to trust him, which definitely made his job more difficult. At least she was still alive though. If Ella had her will done, Cassie's life would've cruelly ended before she could damage the wench's precious natural order any further.

She rose to sit on the sofa, knees tightly together and her whole appearance apparently tensed. Who knew what she was thinking? Escape, violence, revenge… or perhaps she was curious, not so deeply touched by the death of that young man. A part of her repelled him and another embraced?

"Will you take me back?" Cassie asked, afraid she'd lose her nerve before getting that far. She couldn't call his behavior kindness when the deed he'd done had been spilling blood. Yet there was something in the way he'd taken care of her that proved he was stripped of cruel motives and merely hoped for her well-being. She'd been moved, felt hopeful again, which was a luxury she had lost upon entering this nightmare with the fallen.

"No, I won't," he said grimly and stood up. He was rolling up his white sleeves as he walked up to her. She shivered when he stopped right next to her and glared directly at her. The empathy she'd seen in him before had been drained out. Something weighted him down, made him grim and displeased. Cassie could feel her whole body tense in case she'd need to get up with haste.

"Can I ask why?" Her voice shivered but she appeared stronger than before. She wasn't afraid was she?

"Earlier you revealed yourself in order to… protect me. Wouldn't that make you my guardian?" She tried reasoning her way out of this mess now. Perhaps she'd been mistaken gravely by trusting this quite obviously feral and bloodthirsty being, but as long as he was controllable she knew she could still straighten things out. She truly felt sorry for Felix, but if he was to be the price she paid for turning things to her victory, then so be it. She had to be ruthless to succeed, ruthless to be able to continue. Otherwise she might've as well believed everything Azazeal said blindly and simply allowed him to hinder the difference between white and black for good.

He laughed at her conclusions aloud, but it wasn't mocking laughter. "I'm not yours to control Cassandra. Even if my purpose is to keep you alive, you cannot influence me," he explained. Azazeal had given strict orders not to allow her play him for a fool. She'd want to see her son, try and steal him perhaps.

"Fine. Although you should remember, who it is that saved you earlier on." Her tone of voice was cool, almost numb, but had little effect on him. She wasn't too shaken about that boy that was for sure.

"It does intrigue me," he admitted. "You're not on friendly terms with Azazeal and many were sure you'd come to regret your past time with him enough to assist the Anointed One in her attempts to destroy the Nephilim, and still you turn completely against her for a humble fallen angel just moments after he had killed your escort."

"It just happened," she defended herself, unsure if that was the truth. She'd been confused, still was, and somehow even he couldn't bring clarity to this. He felt oddly familiar, clearly had a secret that tempted her to unravel it. He certainly didn't look like a mysterious stranger, like Azazeal had. No, he seemed younger, barely adult, in her eyes. He wasn't a puppet master for sure.

"Do I fascinate you?" he asked, making her stir and stop her evaluation. She couldn't quite call it fascination, although questions did arise. He and Ella seemed to share a history, seeing how strongly he'd responded to her presence. It further proved that Ella was a witch, a theory Cassie had had for awhile now.

Still she couldn't stop her gaze from wandering. "Made any interesting comparisons between myself and Azazeal?" he further taunted her, unable to have much effect this time though. "You're night and day," she responded, quickly losing interest in this subject. "I'll take that as a compliment," he replied.

"So you're just going to keep me here until Azazeal says I can go?"

Not quite, seeing as Azazeal didn't even know where they were and wouldn't exactly burst from happiness after realizing he'd taken off with Cassandra. He'd done it before, ran off with his protégée under Azazeal's nose. It hadn't ended well, almost like he'd been cursed the moment he'd strayed. "He doesn't know where we are. No one does." His reply was flat, further confusing her.

"But you're a Nephilim, you serve him!" She exclaimed, beginning to feel the frustration expand inside her. She couldn't stay here; have these empty conversations with the nameless Nephilim. No wait, she struggled with her memory. Ella had called him something, given a name to the brooding figure next to her and Azazeal as well. Archangel, high priest of Heaven… Baraqiel! Which would mean he was Azazeal's right hand angel, wouldn't it?

"As much as a black and white world appeals to you humans, it is not so. There's no clear white and there's certainly no clear black."

She frowned at this response.

"You think Ella is good? Can someone, who murders without guilt be good? Am I evil for following Azazeal? Was I created for nothing but blind servitude without the joys and pleasures humans have? Should I have bowed my head to you feeble creatures, so fragile and precious when compared to our diamond skin?" He paused; made sure she was still following the underlying though in this outburst.

"Things aren't simple; they're layered and scraping off one layer reveals ten underneath it."

Cassie stood up as if suddenly grasping some strange truth, she'd been seeking. "I've seen you before," she claimed, eyes wide in recognition. "When I was possessed I had dreams of a room, a court. Occasionally I was there, and occasionally Rachel. You were there with her."

A slight smirk crept across Baraqiel's face. He remembered those times: the parties, secrecy and excitement. Rachel had enjoyed being the center of attention.

"You cared deeply for her," Cassie continued examining his reaction. He nodded almost humbly at the insight.

"Were you her protector?" she asked.

"If I was I certainly didn't do a very good job at it," was his reply. He had affinity for humans, a dislike in watching Azazeal tear their lives apart upon entering them. He did however know that the Abyss was no option and that sacrifices had to be made.

"You must tell me!" Cassie demanded, grasping her shining ray of hope with both hands. "You must tell me everything about Rachel – and Esther too!"

"Why would I?"

"Because we have to learn from history, not hide it," she claimed.

Learn from history, eh? Azazeal had done that; his witch was still alive, wasn't she? He also had to know Ella was apparently fireproof. What was there for Cassie to learn from history? That denying Azazeal didn't lead to salvation or that trusting him was the same as certain death? But she had saved him, granted him forgiveness even when she shouldn't have. Did he want to see her suffer further? No, he might be saving her by telling her. He might cast the shadow on Ella for a change.

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A/N: Does anyone know if the year of Ella's persecution was mentioned beyond "around 17th century" in the show?