Fall From Grace
Exile of Angels Book 1
by Ron C. Nieto Genre: Urban Fantasy
Hell was meant to be a timeless prison. It’s not.
Henry Black, former Archangel of Secret Knowledge, wants some peace of mind after untold millennia locked up in Hell, but the guilt of inhabiting a body that is not his own and of having left behind his brothers and sisters still damned to solitary confinement eats him up inside.
Old sins are hard to cleanse.
He thinks he can atone by doing the right thing—play the older brother to his host body’s kin while upturning every secret buried in Creation until he finds a way to free every single angel who fell—but with every fact uncovered, he finds himself one step further from the release he craves and one step closer to more chains that bind.
Maybe the only way to be at peace with himself is to face a new war head on…
What could I tell him? I pinched the bridge of my nose, my other hand drumming a pattern on my stomach. I’m breaking my brothers and sisters out of Hell. That might unleash Hell on Earth, but really, it’s not as bad as humans have made it sound. After all, you still like me, right? It’s not like you could tell the difference between me and the real Henry. It’ll be the same for the rest, I promise. I just need to track down a few symbols to add to the ritual Bishop’s using to pull us out one by one and tinker with it until I can ram the Gates of Hell wide open for everyone to come out at once.
Yes. Of course. That would have been the best thing to say.
“Do you know how the Nazis were obsessed with hunting down relics of the occult?” I asked instead. I couldn’t give Phillip the truth, but the more nuggets of it he got, the less danger he’d be in.
The words dropped between us like corpses. They left in their wake the same silent, repulsed surprise. It stretched long enough that I questioned my choice of comparison. Phillip did remember that Nazi bit from his World History classes, didn’t he?
He had taken World History classes, right?
“This mafia group,” Phillip began, speaking slowly, as if wrapping his mind around what he said took up every bit of his concentration.
“Mafia-like group,” I corrected him, out of habit.
Phillip waved my comment aside. “Yeah. Whatever. They want to get their hands on some… what, exactly?”
I winced. “You know how the Temple of Jerusalem was built in one day by King Solomon?” That reference was more out-there than the Nazi one, but it was so convenient to slip the truth into the lie that I couldn’t resist.
Phillip’s gaze bore down on me. It was all but burning a hole through the side of my head. He sustained the stare far longer than any normal man should be capable of, too.
“That’s fiction, Henry.”
No, it really wasn’t. “What does it matter? The artifacts Hitler sought weren’t but legends, and still he dedicated one entire army to hunting them down.”
Silence. Lots of silence. At least ten minutes’ worth of it, solid and heavy.
“Did they ask you to research this, ah… ?”
“Key of Solomon,” I supplied.
“… Key of Solomon,” he said. I didn’t look at him, but it sounded like he was tasting the words, sounding them out to see if they were any more plausible coming from his own mouth. “Is that why they asked you to come here?”
No. “Yes.” Partly.
More silence. In Henry’s memory, Phillip had never been so quiet.
“Okay. How can I help?” he asked at last.
I did turn to look at him then. The wintry sun of bleary Detroit came slanted through the window, stinging my too-fair eyes and teasing rich highlights from Phillip’s hair. It reminded me of a ray of hope, and it brought a thought of Henry’s to mind. Phillip belonged to the light, Henry never did. Could I drag him down to my personal war, under the pretense of loyalty to a brother who was long gone from the flesh I inhabited?
Yes, I could.
Rise To Freedom
Exile of Angels Book 2
I am a demon possessing the body of the late Malik Sadik. Truth.
Yes, the former Archangel of Truth now inhabits the body of coffeehouse barista Malik Sadik. But Malik wasn’t a willing participant to this possession, not like Henry Black. The human Henry Black willingly gave over his body to the Archangel of Secret Knowledge. Malik, on the other hand, was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I still feel human. Truth.
Yes, Malik still feels human. But he’s not human and a war is brewing. When Hell threatens to unravel and its black hunger eats and corrupts those Malik has learned to care about, he must make a choice between what he knew as an angel and what he has begun to feel as a man.
Malik glanced between Ed and John, both wearing their uniforms as shields and their guns for safety. Malik himself didn’t have a gun, didn’t have a bulletproof vest or anything. If there was any shooting in his future, he only had his jacket to protect him—and since the damn thing didn’t do a great job of protecting him from Detroit’s bitter cold, he supposed it wouldn’t be any better against a bullet. Or a knife. Or a club. Or-- Stop it. It’s not like we’re expecting that sort of trouble anyway. If this was a normal call, we wouldn’t be here. Truth. Yeah, but that truth doesn’t take into account that Black can make mistakes, right? That fucking know-it-all could have sent us to break a drug dealer’s ring by error. Wouldn’t that be fun. “Oops, sorry, carry on. We were just responding to a bit of demonic energy in the area, didn’t realize it was just a coke OD.” Malik shook his head to rid it of the what-ifs and walked up to the house, close on the cops’ heels. John and Ed exchanged a quick glance, and then John kicked the door, hard enough to tear one of the hinges in a cloud of splinters. The door hit the wall with a crash and both John and Ed spilled into the house, fanning out to cover the foyer and the doors leading into the house. Malik hesitated only a second before following suit. He chose to move toward John’s cover—he always did—and once the three of them were inside, they slipped into the first room. The raid didn’t look at all like the stuff Malik was used to seeing on TV. John had assured him that it didn’t look at all like a raid planned by the regulations, either. This was, as both cops often complained, undermanned, rushed, and bordering on illegal… but it was the best they could do, given the circumstances.
“Can you feel it?” John asked, his voice barely above a murmur. No. Lie. Yes. Truth.“Yeah,” Malik answered. “I feel it.”If only I knew what it is that I feel, or how I feel it, or what it feels like…
“Where?” Upstairs. Lie. Left. Lie? Right. Eh, no, not quite. Malik gestured in a general direction, mostly up ahead. He shrugged when John gave him a look. “What? It’s faint, I can’t pinpoint it.”
“If it’s faint, does that mean it’s weak?” Ed whispered from the rear. Malik shrugged again. “Weak is relative,” he said. His stomach was beginning to cramp already, nausea from focusing on his sense of truth rising on the back of his throat. A noise came from deep inside the house and Ed swallowed his answer, whatever it might have been. It was a scratch. Like someone dragging their feet, maybe. It came and went, soft and quick like it hadn’t even happened, but all three of them had heard it. All pretense of humor left the group. Malik saw John’s shoulders tensing, his body crouching lower. Ed would be doing the same behind them.
“Are you ready?” John mouthed, no longer daring to even whisper.
Ron C. Nieto is a fantasy and romance author who has been writing in her secluded fortress for the longest time. Recently, she had a talk with her cat and decided that she should share her creations, because it was selfish to hoard them all for herself.
What did I leave untouched? The concept behind exile of Angels had been percolating in my mind for about four years now, and the books have go through several iterations. For starters, my initial idea was to write a single book about a conflict between Henry (who ended up being the main character for book 1, Fall from Grace) and Malik (who turned out to be a reluctant ally and the main character for book 2, Rise to Freedom). I had it planned to be a conceptual piece talking about good and evil, what we perceive as heroes and villains, and how I could twist those perceptions to give the reader a unique look into the minds of two archetypes who turn out to be anything but. It was not very commercial. Plus, the world I created to host this conflict became too rich to be confined to a single book. My next concept was a lot closer to what finally made it to the page, but even then, I had to change a lot of things. For example, that Henry was focused on the wrong kind of enemies — he kept trying to fight the police, when in the final version, the police are his greatest allies. And Malik had a tendency of leaving a trail of bodies behind. I had to delete more than half the manuscript and overhaul the plot line, but finally I’m happy with the results. Previous versions gave me a nagging feeling of something not being right, but that’s gone now. The novels, as they are, are how they are meant to be. The characters are comfortable in their own skin, and the world is really to be explored to its full depth. So, while I have enough fragments left in the cutting floor to piece together another novel or two, I believe that those fragments don’t quite belong to Exile of Angels anymore, and that you, the reader, have only benefited from the early massive edits.
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