Ethan ran up the stairway two at a time, the echo of his footsteps loud in the narrow stone corridors.  He knew he had only moments left.  He had discarded his cloak to gain speed, and was sprinting full out.

            He stopped at the door to the roof to catch his breath and prepare himself for the confrontation to come.  In his focus, it took him a moment to realize that, though he had stopped running, he could still hear footsteps.

            Ethan whirled to face the stairs, his sword in hand, at the ready.  Whatever came out of the darkness, he was prepared.

            “Ethan?” asked a breathless voice, and Ethan found that he wasn’t quite prepared for this. 

            “Mara?”  He said, and then she was in his arms, seeking his mouth with her own, her arms clutching him tightly.  He felt warm tears on his cheeks and could not tell which of them was crying.  Perhaps both.

            “What are you doing here?” he asked.

            “I knew you would come.  Your sisters and I figured that you would need our help.”  She smiled, and from behind her Gwen and Genevieve emerged into the light.  Ethan embraced each of them quickly.

            “Time is running short, glad as I am of this reunion.  We have to move fast.  I’ll take Reza when we go through this door.  The rest of you can deal with rescuing Jason.  Are we ready?”

 

 

***

 

Donovan Reza held a bloody knife in his left hand.  He held Jason by the hair in his right.  A look of excruciating misery was painted on this man’s face, and a pentangle of blood was being painted around his feet.  The blood for this diagram came from deep cuts on his arms, legs and chest.  Simon Lamb was the artist in charge of this bloody picture.

            As Ethan burst through the door, Lamb completed the circle containing the pentangle he had created, and it burst into flames.  Gwen and Evie rolled to either side of the blazing circle, while Mara and Ethan somersaulted right over it, into the centre of the fiery ring.  Into the circle of death.

            Ethan collided with Reza in a diving tackle, knocking him and Jason over.  Mara rolled to a crouch, facing Lamb, who snarled at her.  His teeth had become fangs, his eyes blazed a deep red.  They circled each other warily as Ethan wrestled with his doppelganger and Jason whimpered on the stone floor of the platform.

            “You cannot interfere!”  Lamb growled at Mara.  “You know the Angelic Laws.  You cannot get involved in their free will choices.”

            “Newsflash, dumb-ass, I’m human now.  I have all the free will anyone could ever want.  The rules don’t apply to me anymore.”  She grinned.  “I hated those fucking rules.”

            “Such language!”  Lamb mocked, feigning shock.  “What would your father say?”

            “I don’t answer to him.”  Mara glared at Simon.  “No one tells me what to do anymore!  I do what I want!”

            “And what are you going to do with your newfound freedom?”

            “I’m going to kill you.” 

            Mara leapt forward and struck Lamb across the face with her elbow, tripping him.  Behind them Ethan and Donovan struggled over the knife in Reza’s hand, both of them straining.  Reza’s lips were drawn back in a snarl of rage, while Ethan’s eyes were filled with determination.  They wrestled back and forth, neither gaining an inch.  Donovan seemed frustrated, finding that his supernatural strength gave him no advantage over Ethan and his faith.

            On the sidelines, Genevieve and her sister were forced to watch these life and death struggles.  Evie had the best view of Mara’s fight, and tried to shout encouragement to her friend.  On the other side of the circle, Gwen watched their brother and saw that the battle was too even.

            “Ethan, listen to me!”  She called out, cupping her mouth against the wind.  He didn’t look at her, but a slight angling of the position of his head indicated to her that he had shifted some of his concentration her way.  They were so close in strength that he gave an entire inch to Reza in order to give her any of his attention at all, so Gwen knew she had to talk fast.

            “You’ve been fighting him your whole life, Ethan!  It’s all over your journals, how you wrestled with your anger!”

            The wind blew hard, whipping her hair back, and Gwen had to holler to make herself heard, but she knew Ethan was listening.

            “You can’t fight him anymore!  It doesn’t get you anywhere!  You have to let go of your fear of getting angry because fighting with it so hard is what gives it power over you!”

            Ethan looked directly at her, and Gwen could see him processing her words.  Reza saw this lapse in concentration as an opportunity, and pressed the advantage.  His blade moved inexorably closer.

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