Glenn Dale Bridges lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana with his wife, daughter, and son. He is currently working on the second book of The Peacock Angel series.
The Peacock Angel
Rise of the Decarchs
by Glenn Dale Bridges
The Peacock Angel
Rise of the Decarchs
by Glenn Dale Bridges
Published Feb 18, 2013
Genre: FICTION / Fantasy / Paranormal
There is always a gray area . . . even in Heaven.
Something is coming to kill Thane Connally; an angel told him so. The young prison guard, however, remains hesitant to embrace his role in a feud that began long before the scope of human memory. Only after learning more of the truth from Armaros, an earthbound angel from the second fall, does Thane begin to realize there is no choice in the matter—he is now a pawn of prophecy. This education comes at a price though, and time was the cost. For hidden deep below the rock of a mountain, an army is growing. Azazel, brother to Armaros and bane of the ancients, has somehow escaped from his desert purgatory after nearly eight thousand years. Fueled by his thirst for retribution, he is hell bent on propagating a race of giants to spoil the Earth. Only together can Thane and Armaros, along with a small group of improbable allies, hope to thwart the enraged angel and his minions. If left unchecked Azazel’s madness could unravel the very fabric of humanity and trigger the unbegotten. Blending Jewish folklore, the apocrypha, and oral tradition from the dawn of humankind, The Peacock Angel is a thought-provoking tale of an ordinary young man plunged into extraordinary circumstances—with the fate of us all lying somewhere in the balance.
Something squeezed Jibril’s shoulder. He turned to cuff Nadim, his roguish camel, for nipping him, but he was mistaken. This was no camel. He didn’t hear the giant man approach. And he wasn’t even sleeping—not soundly anyhow. Fear took hold; he could not move. He tried. An unintelligible moan escaped his lips. The stranger didn’t seem to notice. The big man was odd—white skin uncolored by the desert from which he came, and his features sharp and unfriendly. He was also completely naked. And tall. The boy had never seen anyone from his village or from the surrounding tribes as lofty as the white haired stranger squeezing his arm. “Your goats are fat boy,” the stranger said as he released his grip on the young man. “You must know all the best lands to graze.” The fear ebbed with the big man’s words. Pride replaced it. The stranger was right—he did know all the best places to feed his goats. His father had taught him, just as his father’s father had taught him a generation before. On his tenth birthday he began looking after the goats of his people, almost a full year past. “I wasn’t asleep,” the boy said. The stranger needed to understand this. “The sun is bright though, my eyes burn.” “Of course,” the man agreed. “An accomplished goat herder like you would never leave his flock unattended. What’s your name boy?” “Jibril. What’s yours?” The stranger did not answer. He stared ahead at the goats and the grass and the trees in the distance—things Jibril found quite unremarkable. He seemed unconcerned with his nakedness. “Where are your clothes?” the boy asked. “They rotted away long ago. I suppose I need some new ones.” “What’s your name?” Jibril asked again. “I have many.” “Well what do I call you,” Jibril pushed. “Azazel will do. You certainly are full of questions. Long ago such behavior would have angered me.” “And now?” “I haven’t decided yet. But you’ll know soon enough.” Jibril understood. He forced his mouth shut. His curiosity sometimes angered his father too. His eyes, however, remained open, and he inspected the man beside him closely. The differences became frightfully clear to Jibril rather quickly. He almost ran away. No one could fault him for leaving the sheep behind and rushing to tell the village a devil was amongst them . . . or a god. Therein lay the problem—the unknowing. Jibril’s curiosity trumped his instincts like always. He stayed put and continued to stare. “Take me to your village,” the stranger said. Corded with lean muscle, Azazel’s back seemed cut from stone. His front appeared no different. He stood at least as tall as the top of Nadim’s hump, and Nadim was the largest of his father’s camels. Jibril shifted his gaze to where he last recalled the animal and found him there still, chewing his cud and completely unconcerned with the stranger. His hair was grandfather white, but his face and body were young. The skin of his flesh was pulled taut and without a blemish. It too remained ivory white. His eyes, however, were dark and too big for his long face. Jibril couldn’t muster the courage to meet their gaze when Azazel turned. “It’s not really a village,” Jibril answered. “Just a camp. You can see the tents from here. Look.” The boy pointed ahead and skyward. Azazel followed with his eyes. Jibril was relieved to have the stranger looking elsewhere. The Bedouin tents of his people were scarcely visible atop the northern ridge of the massive crater where his goats grazed lazily. “The men will not be there,” Jibril said. “They are all working on the road to Eilat. But grandfather will be. He is very wise. You must talk with him.” “Yes,” Azazel agreed. “I would like to talk with grandfather.” Jibril grinned. He wanted to rid himself of this stranger. His grandfather would know what to do with Azazel. Azazel waited beside the large rock where Jibril had been resting as the boy gathered his sheep and started them on their trek back to camp. He did not act impatient nor did he complain when a few goats strayed away and Jibril and Nadim took some time to right their course. The stranger seemed in no hurry. He filed in line behind Jibril, who sat atop Nadim, as they began their ascent to the Bedouin camp. They had not gone far when the burial place of a nomad became visible from the well- worn trail. Bedouin resting places were exceedingly simple; an ordinary stone sat at the head of the grave and one at its foot. Nomadic tradition decreed that the clothes of the deceased remain atop the grave to aid needy travelers. An idea came to Jibril as they neared the gravesite. “There are clothes if you wish to dress,” he said. “Perhaps it would be best if I did,” Azazel agreed. He walked over to the grave and removed only a large white cotton tunic from the pile. The garment was fashioned to fall near the ankles of an average person, but it ended just below the knee when worn by Azazel. The rest of the fit seemed passable though, and Azazel returned to the trail seemingly satisfied and undeterred. Jibril grinned. Azazel didn’t stand out as much with the tunic on. At least now it wasn’t sinful just to look at him. Jibril’s sheep followed the trail uphill without further incident, and the group entered the camp a little quicker than usual by the boy’s estimation. Relief washed over him when they found the encampment as relatively empty as it should be at this time in the afternoon. Nobody would see him bring the stranger into their midst. He penned the goats and beckoned Azazel to follow him. His Father’s tent was the largest in the camp, and it sat centrally located amongst the other shacks, huts, and tents of the encampment. His grandfather the Sheikh, along with his father, had the most goats in the camp. They were important members of the tribe, and Jibril was proud of his family. He turned to look for a reaction from Azazel before entering the tent. He found none. The inside of the tent smelled strongly of spiced coffee. Jibril looked to his right, through the woven curtain dividing the tent. There his grandmother sat surrounded by other women from the village. She added cardamom to beans that she ground with her mortar and pestle. The dallah, however, already sat on the fire. She must be expecting more company. Music mixed comfortably with the pleasant aroma of the coffee. Jibril turned his head and found his grandfather sitting right where he expected him to be. He was an older man, but not frail or weak. He commanded the same respect from Jibril that the boy gave his father. He pulled a curved bow masterfully across the one string of the long necked fiddle resting in his lap. He gave Jibril a nod when he noticed the boy had entered the tent. For a moment, Jibril forgot. Nothing out of the ordinary here. A day like most others. Business as usual. And then Azazel stepped into the tent. The music stopped at once—the bow fell from his grandfather’s hand. The women fell silent as well. No more chatter. Company left—scurried away like rats from the light. His grandmother removed herself from the tent also, yielding to some instinct telling her that she should. Jibril had not expected such a reaction. He had not intended to do anything wrong. His father taught him the importance of showing hospitality to strangers at a young age. He assumed that meant all strangers. Even extraordinary ones. His grandfather looked concerned. Not scared because that was impossible. The men of his family feared nothing. But he did look very concerned. His eyes left the stranger and moved to Jibril—a thousand questions in his gaze. The boy had no answers. Why didn’t his grandfather say something? The silence became uncomfortable. Jibril felt somehow responsible. He hoped he hadn’t done anything wrong, but he began to suspect otherwise. Azazel spoke first. “Is this how you welcome all travelers grandfather? You hospitality seems to have all but expired? I remember a great time ago when nomads like yourself took pride in the way they treated visitors.” Grandfather very deliberately shut his eyes and opened them again. Too slow to be a blink, Jibril had seen him do it before. He usually followed the gesture with measured words of wisdom. But not this time. “Leave us Jibril,” he said. “Go and get your father. Tell him of our visitor. Hurry.” Jibril started to protest but thought better of it. Still, his grandfather made no sense. His father remained many kilometers away; it would take him and Nadim the better part of a day to reach the place where the men worked. His father would be home at his usual time long before Jibril could reach him. His grandfather must know this. Unless . . . his grandfather just wanted him away from the camp. And away from the stranger. “Yes grandfather,” he said. Jibril turned and walked out of the tent the same way he came in. But he couldn’t leave. Not yet. He must know more about the one who called himself Azazel. As quietly as he could, he slipped around to the back of the tent. He stopped and crouched down when the voices from inside became easiest to hear. “Why are you here demon?” “Demon? I am no demon grandfather. I am no one.” “You are one of the ancients. One of the two hundred. A demon.” “I told you once old man . . . I’m no demon. Do not call me demon again.” “You are right. You are worse than a demon. Magi filth.” Jibril expected an angry reaction from Azazel, but he got none. The insult his grandfather hurled seemed to have little effect. Only silence within the tent for a moment. It seemed to last an eternity. He considered running away, until finally Azazel spoke. “How do you know who I am? I have been gone a very, very long time.” “I do not know who you are, only what you are—a Watcher. I have heard tales of your kind passed down since the dawn of my people. Always in whispers. Mostly to scare the children. The moral was always the same—if God would punish his own children as harshly as he did the Watchers, then just imagine what he would do to a little unruly Bedouin child.” “I am Azazel.” “Then you are the worst of them all.” “I taught your kind much.” “I have heard the stories. There are people who live in the lands north of here that consider you benevolent. They are the Yazidi. They are pagan. To them you are called Melek Taus.” “The Peacock Angel. I haven’t heard that in . . . well, it doesn’t matter. I always liked the way it sounded.” “You should go to them, and leave us at once. You are not revered among my people.” “I will be leaving soon enough, but first you will help me.” “You know I cannot help you devil.” “And you claim to know what I am capable of. You do not old man. I will peel the skin from that wife of yours and force the camels to ravage her right before your eyes if you test me. Besides what I ask is not much.” Jibril’s heart hammered away in his chest. He was scared they could hear it beating inside of the tent. He should be well down the road by now. His grandfather’s voice was different when he next heard it—defeated. “What would you have me do?” “Tell me where I am. Not with names of towns or tribes, those would mean nothing to me, but tell me of the land. That would not have changed much.” Jibril listened intently as his grandfather told the devil everything about the world they lived in. He spoke of rivers, lakes, mountains, desert, marshlands, and other landmarks. Azazel only questioned him twice—when he described Lake Van and Mount Hermon. “And that is all I know devil,” grandfather said. Jibril believed him. He hoped Azazel did as well. “It is more than enough. The lake of salt in the mountains is where I will go.” “Why Lake Van? There is nothing remarkable there.” “I believe there is. Buried somewhere beneath the mountains surrounding the lake is my brother. I would free him as I have freed myself.” “Will you leave us now? I have done what you asked.” “I will, and I will not harm your family or your people. But I am not ready for others to know that I have arisen.” “I knew my time was over the moment you walked into the tent. I do not fear death.” “You shouldn’t. Death is easy. It’s the dying that’s sometimes quite difficult.” Jibril used the silence that followed to make his escape. Guilt washed over him as he ran to Nadim. He couldn’t help his grandfather. He lacked the courage to try. This was entirely his fault. He had brought Azazel into their camp. He was sorry, but that made no difference. Nadim cooperated and rose quickly once the boy sat atop him. Jibril whispered a brief prayer of thanks. He wanted to be away from here as fast as possible. He never wanted to return. He wasn’t fast enough. He could not outrun his grandfather’s screams. They were foreign to his ears. No man from his camp had ever made such a sound before. He began to cry although he railed against the tears with all his strength. He urged Nadim to go even faster.