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Broken Roses

The first blow of the next war of good v evil

It had started inauspiciously, much as any other day. But that sharp, cold, Thursday morning was one that would shape history. Both political and religious history. It would be wrong to say that it 'changed' history, as history is an eternally changing story. History itself cannot be changed - only the telling of it.

Not a single member of the congregation of The Church of Our Lady who arrived that November morning had any idea that they would be shown worldwide by lunchtime. Nor that audiences with themselves would very soon be sought by none other than His Holiness the Pope himself. 

Most of the days tourists would not believe that a trip to a church made famous in their homeland by a second rate cartoon based loosely on the works of a Master Freemason would result in a day that would make every last one of them question the boundaries of reality. Though a trip to Paris was the trip of a lifetime for most, few have such a life altering affirmation as those fortunate ones. Believers and non-believers alike.

The cold hard acoustics of the interior of the great Notre Dame Cathedral gave the place an air of godliness. The colours flooding the darkness from the seven hundred year old stain glass windows lent the place a majesty unmatched anywhere else in the world's most majestic and beautiful city. The most famous of these windows are the two Rose Windows: large, circular stain glass windows located one each on the north and south ends of the transept, depicting the Triumph of Christ.

On a bright, crisp day like that day, the multi-hued light flowing in through the south Rose Window creates an ethereal glow which filled the chapel, which strangely made the dark corners appear even darker.

Primary and secondary colours, most especially purple - the colour of old Roman royalty and the papalcy - created seemingly solid kaleidoscopic shafts angling down to the flagstones. They picked out the occasional inset gravestone, trampled over for hundreds of years, and now illegible through wear. Hidden around the corner in the gloom is the statue to France's most famous daughter, Joan, the Maid of Orleans, bedecked in armour, seemingly searching the skies for confirmation of her faith. She had been waiting a long time.

The Ile De La Cite, France's most sought after real estate, is a small island in the middle of the River Seine. Notre Dame Cathedral is its most famous building, although it is a glorious and beautiful island to walk around. It houses everything from ancient Supreme Courts to serene tear shaped residential gardens, a delight hidden around every corner. The smell of patisseries fills the air. The small tight maze-like streets of the island add an air of claustrophobia, even on brightly lit days. At least until one turns a corner onto the open courtyard facing the grand edifice of the Cathedral.

Tree lined, and large enough for a second cathedral to be built on it, the courtyard that day was occupied only by a handful of tourists. A few were trusting to Lady Luck to bring them good fortune by touching the 'navel' of Paris, a brass plaque inset in the courtyard and taken as the exact centre of the city. That day's fortune seekers were more lucky than the previous day's. One of the luckiest was the honeymooning Romanian tourist with the camcorder who was recording his new bride against the backdrop of the cathedral's twin towered facade when the two supernatural beings appeared from nowhere, high above the Seine. His was the only recording of the blow which was landed, though many saw. And more would claim to have done so.

The only voices inside the Cathedral were whispered, out of respect. The acoustics did not lend themselves to loud noises - there was little to dampen the sounds. The small areas off the main body of the cathedral were used primarily by the congregation for privacy in their conversations with their God. The tourists by and large respected this, although it was difficult for young children to equate this strange place with the Hunchback's home. Entry for tourists was free, as this was a working church: however, if you wished to climb the towers to get more of a feel for what it would be like as Quasimodo, a small contribution was required.

No-one, save those nearest to the entrance, heard the cries and screams from the courtyard. So no warning was given when the entity crashed through the southern of the Rose Windows. Such was the angle and the force of the entry that the entity struck half way up the north end of the transept and fell backwards, broken.

By some miracle the shattering of such an immense window produced only minor cuts amongst those in the immediate area. And none of the masonry caused any physical damage to the onlookers. That only seemed to add credence to what was to come. Although, following on from what else happened there were a few suspected self-inflicted cuts to add a certain amount of kudos to individual stories. 

The immediate reaction of the crowds was, not surprisingly, to run away from the exploding glass and stone. The great art of self preservation surfaced in all concerned. Some continued running to the exit and didn't look back. Some hid in the rows of pews, eventually resurfacing. Others, however, turned to help the injured as soon as the immediate danger had seemed to pass. Loved ones tended minor wounds, but all that were left in the great church naturally gravitated towards the fallen figure.

After the crash of the implosion and the screams of fright and pain subsided an odd, eery quiet fell in the church.

Those faithful receiving mass or private communions drew themselves from their personal audiences to see what the commotion was. They saw a trail of glass and stone along the length of the transept. The quality of light had altered drastically from the warm glow to a cold white, accompanied by the chill wind which blew through the remains of the window. The cold seemed to have more than merely a physical level to it.

Resplendant in the daily garb which denoted his illustrious standing in the eyes of the church, a small bespectacled, rotund man waddled as fast as he could towards the gathering crowds. Instead of the excited gabbling that he was expecting, there was a hushed, awed quiet. He had no hesitation in disrupting that quiet.

"Who would DARE to defile my church in such a way?" he bellowed red faced, elbowing his way roughly through the throng of people. The echo went on for a long time. He noticed people actively defying the request of the church not to take photographs nor camcorder film. He would deal with them in a moment when he got to the bottom of this vandalism. Heaven alone knew how much it was going to cost to replace! Not that the Holy Church of Rome was suffering financially, of course.

The twisted and crumpled figure on the ground glowed softly. Were it not for the broken glass embedded in it, and the rivulets of blood which covered it, it would have been the singular most beautiful thing that the Archbishop could have ever imagined. The gilt-edged white figure stirred slightly, moaning. It had appeared as if a bed of feathers had been lain especially to collect the naked masculine figure in its softness as it fell. However, on closer inspection the broken ranks of feathers and pools of deepening pools of blood told a different story. The Archbishop's jaw dropped in surprise, monetary considerations disappearing instantly and forever. There in front of him lay an entity that he never thought he would see until his soul had departed this earthly realm. He resisted the desire to pinch himself to make sure that he hadn't already done so.

An angel - in HIS church! 

The church's followers had long known that such a day as this would come. Their fathers before them, and their fathers prior to that, going back many generations. Few of them would have expected the first blow in the final war to happen in their church however.

The angel's mouth moved, and Archbishop Vingt-Trois squatted down to try and make out what it was trying to say. He turned his head to listen closer. "YOUR church?" the angel hissed with something akin to venom in his voice. The Archbishop moved back in both shock and shame at this. 

"I am sorry. You are right, it is not my church. It is God's church," he said softly and in obvious embarrassment. He watched as the angel's eyes opened slowly.

The golden eyes blinked in pain as he locked eyes with the Montsignor Vingt-Trois. "Ah, Father," the angel said as it moved slowly and righted itself. The onlookers in the vicinity moved back to give it as much space as it needed, all the while camcorders were whirring away, cameras and mobile phones were flashing. 

As it stood up, it was obvious that the angel was at least eight feet tall, and as it spread its wings its full magnificence could finally be imagined, although the broken feathers and dripping blood detracted from the picture. "Will you take my confession, Father?" the angel asked.

It took a second or two for the Archbishop to realise that his ears had not deceived him. He could see that the angel was waiting on his answer. "Of c-c-c-c-course I will. Will you join me in the Confessionals?"

"We have no time. It must be done now or not at all." The Archbishop nodded his head, inviting the angel to proceed. "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned," the angel started.

"How long has it been since your last confession?" asked the Archbishop.

When no answer was forthcoming, the Archbishop looked up at the questioning look in the angel's face.

"Ah, sorry. I don't suppose that you do this every day, do you? Please proceed. What form has this sin taken?" said the Archbishop as he once again bowed his head to listen.

"Forgive me Father, for I have consorted with Demons."

The archbishop's head snapped back up to look at the angel. This time the angel was looking back, south, along the transept above the heads of those gathered around him. All of the heads turned to follow where it was looking.

"I had hoped to stave off any chance of a Revelation-esque confrontation, but I have been betrayed by the very Demons I thought to save. If I were you I would run."

There, floating in the air in the centre of the broken Rose Window was the antagonist.

Where the angel was the most beautiful creature that any of them had laid eyes on, this creature was the epitome of evil. It was the thing of nightmares, its form never remaining entirely constant as if it were a cloud of black and red flies trying to make a creature half man and half bull. The bright light through which it came only helped to intensify the feeling of distortion. The only things that did not change at all were the eyes. The red glowing soul-sapping eyes.

The onlookers fell to their knees, or else backed away, all of them having difficulty drawing breath.

Between gasps Archbishop Vingt-Trois asked of the angel, "Surely Demons cannot enter consecrated buildings? Surely this is God's land?"

"Tell them Michael!" the Demon said, in a voice that resonated through the bodies and very souls of the onlookers. "Tell them why they should fear!"

"My passage through the window has rent a hole in the church's protection. God does not reside here anymore," the angel Michael informed them. "I truly am sorry. Now, I repeat - if I were you I would run! With all haste!"

The Demon passed through the space where the window had been. Slowly, making an entrance that none of them would ever forget. Out of a truly memorable day, this would be the most memorable moment. The eyes glowed brighter. The Demon lifted its overly muscular humanesque arms and bellowed. From its hands a red wave of energy could be seen hurtling at lightning speed at Michael and the humans who hadn't crept away. Michael barely managed to conjure forth a barricade in time to protect them. The energy bounced off the barrier, destroying areas of wall. The continuing bellow smashed every single window that remained. 

"Run, you fools!" screamed Michael.

Most of the humans took him at his word, believers and newly converted alike. The only person who remained standing in place was the Archbishop. He raised the large gold cross that hung around his neck, holding it towards the Demon which floated towards him. With barely a nonchalant toss of its hand in the vague direction of the Archbishop the Demon melted the crucifix, encasing the Archbishop's hand. The Archbishop screamed in mortal agony as he fell to his knees.

Even through his own screams and pain the Archbishop heard a deep resonant buzz at his ear. His scream fell to a whimper. 

"Insignificant man, if you insist on remaining where you are then I promise that your Lord God will not be able to find the constituent parts of your soul to allow you to enter what is left of his heaven."

The Archbishop turned his head slightly to watch the small insect messenger fly away from beside his ear and back to rejoin with its brothers. He had been so intent on his own pain that he had not noticed the fly leaving the swarm and fly to him. He doubted that those particular flies would be found referenced in any earthly tome.

He turned to face the angel, Michael. "Forgive me, oh heavenly one. I am but a man," he said through his tears, gasping for sharp breaths of air.

Michael smiled compassionately. "There is nothing to forgive. Now go."

The Archbishop turned and hobbled along the aisle towards the heavy doors, through which some light managed to shine, and round which a large number of faces could be seen. It was only when he was halfway to the door that he realised he was hobbling, and looked down to see shards of glass on his knees. He pulled out what he could, his adrenallin sparing him a lot of the pain for the time being.

Two people pushed their way through the crowd at the door and ran forward to help, carrying him away with linked hands under his arms and knees.

As they came to the door Archbishop Vingt-Trois turned his head for one last look.

There stood the angel, Michael, glowing in the white light which poured through the broken window. And above him, still floating in the air was the black and red buzz of his nemesis. His form seemed to warp and inhale the brightness around him. He looked down on the angel.

And then the Archbishop was out into the fresh air, and the cold brightness of the November morning.

He could hear the sirens of the emergency services trying to force their way through the gathering crowds. He could also hear the large wooden doors slam behind him.

Inside the two entities conversed in the language of the eternals. No one within earshot would have understood a single word, even without half of the sounds being outwith what they could hear.

"So, Michael, are we alone now?" the Demon asked in a soft voice. 

"Yes, my brother, they have all left."

"Do you think that Father will be annoyed when he sees what we do?"

"Perhaps, my brother, but I hope he will forgive us when he sees how many of the lost ones return to his flock. And we have made certain that no-one has lost their lives today."

"I do feel guilty," the Demon said, "about the Archbishop's crucifix."

"Do not worry, I will ensure that there is not a great amount of physical damage to his hand."

"Thank you brother. Can we away now?"

"Yes. 'Tis a pity that we have to destroy this fine building. It has long served its purpose well. But today it will serve us even better. Come, let us hold hands and we will finish our task and return home."

"Yes, my eternal brother. I love you."

"I know," Michael said, smiling widely. "And I love you too."

They held hands.

Everything inside the church was broken by the explosion with one exception. All the glass that remained in the windows was blown outwards. A small number of gargoyles fell off the outside of the building, although mostly those that happened to need replacing due to pollution. And one of the famous flying buttresses collapsed.

Joan of Arc it was that stood there still, although some would claim that her expression had changed to one of mortal satisfaction.

Forensics were never able to work out the type of material used in the explosion, nor how so very little structural damage was done compared to the interior damage.

The following Sunday it was well nigh impossible to find a spare seat in any Christian church.

Anywhere.

 

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