Unholy empire chronicles.., p.12

Unholy Empire: Chronicles of the Host, Vol 2: Chronicles of the Host, Book 2, page 12

 

Unholy Empire: Chronicles of the Host, Vol 2: Chronicles of the Host, Book 2
 



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  He bowed low before the Lord, unable, as any creature, to look directly upon the Presence. The Lord’s voice boomed:

  “Where have you come from?”

  The Voice shook the room. Every eye hung low. Not one angel dared look up, although all were curious as to the outcome of what most expected to be Lucifer’s last contemptible act.

  “Roaming through the earth, mostly, Lord Most High,” said Lucifer. “Back and forth, back and forth.” He stole a glance at the angels about the room, silent and bowed low. “These no doubt are surprised to see me here, O Lord,” he continued. “Perhaps some don’t realize that I have been granted a right of protest here…a right to bring just and true accusation before Your Presence.”

  Lucifer enjoyed having such an audience again.

  “I must admit, Most High, that Your angels have been quite up to the task of protecting Your covenant relationship with Abram, as well as the few other humans who have not bowed to me. The very few.” He motioned to those angels around him. “They are to be commended.”

  Michael seethed as Lucifer continued his showy monologue. Why doesn’t the Most High simply deal with him and be done with it? he wondered to himself. Many in the room wondered the same thing. Lucifer continued.

  “This, I am afraid, is what brings me here,” he said, enjoying himself and wishing his fallen colleagues could witness his performance. “I come to bring accusation to You, as is my right. But what good is an accusation when there is no possibility for moral indiscretion? By this I mean, Most High, how can Your creatures possibly choose fairly when they are so covered by Your concern; so blessed in their lives; so protected by Your Host; so…managed?

  “In short, Most High, given such privileged circumstances, Your chosen ones would never curse You. There is no choice! Why should Abram or one of Your other servants choose a more independent course when their destiny is already decided? Now admittedly, Lord, there are very few on earth who truly serve You…”

  “Have you considered My servant Job?”

  “Yes, Most High,” responded Lucifer, grateful that the Lord was taking the bait. “It is in fact Job of whom I speak. Abram I have seen as flawed but faithful. But Job…he is of a very different character indeed.”

  “Job is blameless and upright. He is a man who fears God and shuns evil. He chooses to do so freely. There is no other man like him upon earth.”

  “But that is my point, Most High,” said Lucifer, still mindful enough of his position to keep his head low as he spoke. “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not placed around him and his household a hedge of protection? Of course he fears You. Why shouldn’t he? This is not like Eden where I dare say the game was much more fairly played out. A’dam chose poorly—but of his own freedom. But, my accusation is not of A’dam nor of Job, Most High. Job is innocently and ignorantly protected of You. But I confess that it is Your will in this matter that I accuse.”

  A hushed but very real gasp filled the room as angels heard the Most High accused by Lucifer. Lucifer enjoyed the effect and went on.

  “Consider, Most High—You have blessed the work of Job’s hands, so that his flocks are everywhere on his land…of course he serves You. I maintain, Most High, that the only reason that Job or any human will serve You is because of those things You provide—nothing else. It is not because of Your image that they bear, great as Your image is, or out of truly free choice that they serve You. It is out of fear that You will…forgive me, Most High, no longer deliver those material things of which they have need. Thus they are compelled in secret to choose You openly.

  “But hear me, Most High: If You will only stay Your hand and allow me to strike everything that Job owns—all of his possessions—he will surely curse Your face as would any human. And then You shall see that Your covenant with Abram is useless and wasted among such capricious spirits!”

  “Everything Job has is now in your hands. But on the man Job himself, you shall not lay even a finger.”

  Lucifer nodded in agreement. “As you wish, Most High.”

  “What’s his game, Crispin?” asked Michael. “How dare he come into the Great Throne room and profane such a sacred convocation?”

  Michael, Serus, Gabriel, and Crispin had grouped up following Lucifer’s spectacle in the Great Hall. All over Heaven the angels were talking about Lucifer’s return. Some wondered if he might be allowed to return permanently? Others were stunned that he actually had access to the Throne at all.

  Crispin looked at Michael as a teacher looks fondly at his student. “We have learned a great deal today, Michael. Something of which all the Host must become aware.” Crispin settled into the soft grass and continued as the others closed in.

  “First of all, Lucifer’s appearance is apparently authorized by the Most High. He obviously could not gain entrance without the Lord’s permission. And he stated in his brash way the reason for his coming. Lucifer is apparently granted a right of accusation—to bring before the Lord Most High the names of individuals with whom he has particular grievance.”

  “But why should the Lord allow a criminal the right of accusation?” asked Serus. “It seems most unfair.”

  “On the contrary, it is out of fairness that the Lord allows such behavior,” said Crispin. “It’s also a brilliant move on Lucifer’s part. Think of it! If Lucifer is not allowed accusation before the Lord, then he can argue that the Most High fears the freedom of men and therefore must interfere with that freedom by creating in certain instances, situations in which men might not choose freely. Interfering with their destiny, as Lucifer put it. And if that be the case, then the Lord becomes unjust in the eyes of His creation if He holds as criminal those who exercised their freedom to choose evil in light of those whom the Lord compels to choose good. It’s quite a clever move, really.”

  “Then Job is merely a legal ploy?” asked Michael. “I still don’t understand the Lord taking the bait from Lucifer.”

  “Really, is that how you saw it?” asked Crispin.

  “What do you mean, teacher?” asked Gabriel.

  “It was not the Lord who took the bait,” he said, smiling a sly smile.

  Rugio’s legion circled Job’s estate, looking over the vast herds that dotted the landscape—in some cases blotting out the very grass by their numbers. Job was at one of his wells, watering some of the sheep. Rugio’s anger burned within him as he watched Job tenderly stroking a newborn lamb near the well.

  Job was a man of about 80. He has a very large family whom he enjoyed more than anything else in the world. They lived in Uz, which was to the east of Jordan, and where he was considered the greatest man among all the people of the East. His wife was good to him, and he had been blessed by the living God with seven sons, three daughters, and thousands of animals.

  Job looked at the late afternoon sun and wiped his sweaty brow. He took a drink of the cool water from the well. Tonight he would build an altar of thanksgiving and with his family celebrate God’s goodness and provision. He always spoke of the Lord, and hoped with all that was in him that perhaps his children would one day serve the living God as he did. Even though they were at this very moment indulging in a feast that Job considered unrighteous, Job would sacrifice an offering to the Lord on their behalf, as he often did, perhaps atoning for his children’s sins.

  Rugio and his troop alighted near Job, on the side of a hill overlooking his house. As they landed the sheep scattered, prompting Job to look up. Perhaps a wild animal had startled the animals. Seeing nothing alarming, he went back to his work, instructing his servants on the construction of a new wall next to the well. Kara and Lucifer joined Rugio.

  “Poor Job,” sneered Kara. “Pathetically ignorant of what is to befall him.”

  “I can hardly wait,” admitted Rugio. “I have been hard-pressed to keep my warriors from tearing him apart.”

  “Remember this,” said Lucifer, addressing the warriors who stood at attention before their unquestioned leader. “You may destroy all o
f his livestock, every herd, every living beast on this wretched piece of Uz. But you may not touch his person. This we will respect—we will win this war justly.”

  “As you command,” they asserted. Rugio smiled proudly at his troops.

  “They are ready to work your will, my lord,” said Rugio. “These are my proud destroyers!”

  “Destroyers of cattle, Rugio!”

  Lucifer and the others looked up to see Michael with a troop of holy angels arriving on the scene. The devils growled and cursed as the holy angels descended around them like a thousand snowflakes. Rugio shook his head in disgust. Kara moved in closer to Rugio’s warriors. Lucifer greeted Michael as if greeting an old friend.

  “Welcome to Uz,” he said. “Michael, I haven’t seen you since last we met…in Heaven, I believe. Ah yes, in the very Presence of the Most High! Although I didn’t see too much of you. As I remember your head was bowed too low.”

  Lucifer’s angels snickered.

  “I remember that shameful time,” said Michael, who commanded his angels to surround Job and his family. The angels immediately set to the task, and created a blazing shield between the humans and the devils. “We knew of your legal right to attend the Lord. We simply didn’t believe you had the arrogance to actually do it.”

  “Ah Michael, bitter as always,” Lucifer said. He walked over to Michael, whose arms were folded in an impassive stance. “War does away with humility. This is a contest to the death. Death is a great motivator.”

  “You would know, Lucifer. You traffic in death,” came a voice from behind Michael.

  “Crispin? Dear teacher?” said a bemused Lucifer. “Aren’t you a bit out of your academic fortress? This is a battlefield, not a classroom.”

  “You are mistaken, Lucifer,” said Crispin dryly. “I’m here to see a lesson taught, not to teach.”

  Michael’s angels laughed at Crispin’s retort.

  “And it is I who shall be doing the teaching,” said Rugio, inflamed at Michael’s appearance and giving off a reddish hue that also manifested a grotesque transformation of his countenance into an ape-like angry visage. Lucifer looked at him sternly and he calmed down, the horrible face returning to normal.

  “Remember, Lucifer,” said Michael. “You will not harm Job. Not even touch him.”

  “Is that why you are here?” asked Lucifer in mock surprise. “To protect Job as if I would go back on my word to the Most High? Really, Michael, has it come to that? I promise we will not touch Job. Only Job.” He smiled.

  Before Michael could respond, Rugio ordered his angels into action. Like a dark cloud, the devils fanned out, shrieking in delight at the prospect of injuring someone so near to the Lord’s heart. This would be a good day!

  As the day’s events progressed, different servants came to Job with fantastic stories of disaster after disaster. First, a company of Sabeans incited by some of Rugio’s angels had taken the oxen and donkeys and put all of the herdsmen to the sword. Lucifer loved the look on Michael and Crispin’s horrified faces as the servant reported on the Sabean raid.

  “Easy to manipulate, those crude Sabeans,” said Lucifer matter-of-factly. Michael glared at Lucifer, frustrated that he could not make a move against him. He looked to make sure that Job was secure.

  “But elements of nature,” continued Lucifer. “Now those are something a little more spectacular. At least to ignorant humans. Is it any wonder that humans worship us as gods in their ridiculous ceremonies? Just look at Rugio’s skill in creating lightning that can kill whole herds of sheep as well as their herdsmen!”

  The angels watched as devils filled the air over the sheep on the far western part of the estate and began to manufacture great bolts of lightning that shot down, burned the sheep, and killed the men with them. Crispin turned away, ashamed that angels—former angels, that is—might be able to perform so hideous a task. Even as the smoke and smell of burning flesh filled the air, yet another servant came running to Job, bloody and out of breath.

  “Master, Master! The Chaldeans have taken the camels and killed the servants with them. We lost every man and animal from your stables!” he screamed. He then dropped at Job’s feet in exhaustion. Job could only look around incredulously. He called upon the Lord to take whatever He wanted but to spare Job’s children.

  “Job does have an incredible weakness for his children, doesn’t he?” said Lucifer. He looked slyly at Michael, who understood what was happening.

  “Surely you would not take this man’s family!?” pleaded Michael. “They are innocent in this!”

  “Innocent?” responded Lucifer. “They are away at a drunken party. This man, their father, atones for their sins every day with a burnt sacrifice. No, Michael, they are not innocent.”

  Rugio appeared suddenly from the south and gave Lucifer an indication of victory. His troops swooped in behind him, chattering about the destruction excitedly.

  “We destroyed them in the house,” he reported. “We collapsed the walls by a great wind. Every one of his children died!” He looked Michael squarely in the eyes. “All of them, Michael!”

  Just as Rugio said this, a servant came galloping up on a camel and fell to Job’s feet sobbing. The man reported that all of Job’s children had died in a tragic accident. The house had collapsed on them, he said. They hadn’t a chance.

  The angels watched as Job fell to his knees for a few moments in total disbelief. His wife was shrieking hysterically in the background, somewhere near their house. Lucifer and Kara watched for Job’s reaction with great anticipation.

  When he stood up Lucifer said to Michael, “Now watch the reaction of one who knew the Lord but lost all. This is the nature of humans whom you defend!”

  Job ripped his clothes and went into his house. When he emerged he was completely naked and his head was shaved. His wife continued sobbing in the doorway, watching to see what he was going to do. The angels watched as well. Job fell to the ground and began…to worship.

  “What?” said Lucifer, exasperated and growing more angry. “Is he actually worshiping the Most High?”

  No demon around Lucifer dared say anything.

  Finally Crispin spoke up. “As I said, Lucifer, a lesson about humans and faith is being taught to us—all of us.”

  Lucifer screamed a horrible oath and disappeared into the sky over Uz. A great cheer went up among the holy angels as Job continued lifting praise to the Most High. Rugio, Kara, and the rest of their murderous troop dissipated in astonishment.

  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,” called out Job, loud enough for his wife to hear. “And naked I will depart! The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away!” He looked up into the sky, tears still streaming from his eyes. “And I say blessed be the name of the Most High God!”

  “What, again?” whispered Michael to Gabriel.

  Gabriel lifted his eyes in surprise at Michael’s words and glanced in the direction he was looking. Making his way once more through the sacred assembly was Lucifer, bold as ever. He made his way up to the foot of the Throne and bowed a sweeping bow. How many times would the Lord endure Lucifer’s rude interruption of the gathering? Every eye was upon the fallen angel, who had once graced this room with marvelous praise. Now he brought only disgrace.

  “Where have you come from?”

  “Ah, great Lord,” Lucifer began. “Once more I come from roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it. Most recently from Uz, Most High.”

  “Have you indeed considered My servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and shuns evil; he fears God and is upright. What’s more, he maintains his integrity, though you incited Me against him to ruin him for no reason!”

  The very room trembled upon the Lord’s last few words, as every angel felt the Most High’s apparent disgust with Lucifer. Lucifer weathered the rebuke and continued on sharply.

  “Skin for skin, Most High!” he responded. “Even a man like Job would give all he has for his very life. As l
ong as you allow Michael’s legions to hedge him in, he will remain loyal to You. But stretch out your hands against his body, O Lord; strike his flesh and bones and he will surely curse You to Your very face—or I know nothing of humans!”

  Michael could not believe Lucifer’s extraordinary brashness. Inwardly he seethed at his enemy’s casual manner and unwanted presence. Still, as Lucifer had pointed out, he had a legal right to bring charges against humans to the Lord.

  “Very well. Job is in your hands. Do as you will to his person, but you must spare his life.”

  “As you wish,” said Lucifer, bowing as he left.

  Job’s wife had hardly spoken since they had lost their children. She and her husband had tried their best to continue on, but it was very difficult to start over at their age, with no family or servants to help. She looked at the countryside of Uz, once one of her great pleasures, now a painful reminder of the tragedy that had overtaken her. As she kneaded the bread and prepared to bake it for the day’s meal, she heard her husband coming in from the field.

  “I think I made some progress today,” Job called out as he drew a long drink from the well near the house. “Those fields will yield crops once more, I swear!” Job emptied the dipper and wiped his sweaty brow. He then made his way around the house to the oven in the back where he knew his wife was working. “We must have hope.”

  Unseen to both of them, a number of evil angels were watching. Awaiting the signal, they snickered among themselves. They were a brutal-looking lot, who had given over completely to their base character and were now permanently and horribly disfigured—an appearance that many of the once beautiful angels had become accustomed to.

  The leader of this crew, Glacus, a warrior of Prian’s legion, lunged out at Job, glancing his body, and then swirled back around quickly to sink his teeth into Job’s shoulder. Job didn’t seem to feel the attack. Other devils joined in the assault and soon, like a pack of wolves on an unfortunate animal, they covered Job’s body, biting, clawing, and shrieking with delight at the havoc they were causing.

 
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