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~:: Perilous Atonement
Chapter I ::~

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The sunlight streamed brightly through the thin slits between the closed blinds as the little demoness pulled the thick coverlet over her head and willed the incessant throbbing to cease. A pale green glow suffused the blankets and warmed her body with its healing glow. Her mate and partner chuckled softly to himself as he shook his head. He was fully familiar with his diminutive lover's tendency to overdo celebrations. It is a good thing she's an empath, he mused with a grin as he watched her renewed efforts to heal her aching form.

He slipped from the bed and tied the belt of his thick robe around his trim waist. Making his way to the kitchen, he started a strong pot of coffee and pulled some frozen ready-to-bake pastries from the freezer. Just as the oven softly beeped indicating it had reached the preset temperature, a jarring buzz of the doorbell let him know that a visitor waited at the front door. He abandoned the pastries on the counter and made his way to answer the door before whoever was there could decide to ring the bell a second time and possibly roust the little demoness from her cocoon of suffering.

The past few days since they'd returned from an extended vacation touring the outer reaches of the Shadow Shard had brought a parade of well-wishers. Dawl had made many friends in her long career, and they turned out in force once they heard she'd returned to Paragon City.

He sighed softly as his hand gripped the door knob. He resolved to politely inform whoever might be seeking entrance that Dawl was not up to visiting at the moment, however the well-rehearsed polite refusal died on his lips as he stared down at the slender young girl who smiled up at him with sparkling golden eyes.

"Adara! Come in. Your aunt isn't up yet. She had a rather rough night last night. She went out with a bunch of friends from the supergroup, and overdid it just a bit."

Adara laughed. From family, to friends, to even those who knew the small demoness only in passing, the fact that Vudu Dawl enjoyed everything to excess was common knowledge among the masses.

"It's okay, Uncle Keres, I understand," the girl giggled softly as she embraced the scrapper with an exuberant hug..

A soft moan behind them caused them both turn to see a disheveled VuDu Dawl, wrapped in a soft chenille robe, stumbling down the stairs.

"Good morning, sweets," Keres greeted her gently. "I was going to bring you some coffee and a danish in a few minutes."

"S'ok," Dawl murmured in a slightly slurred tone. "I'll be alright. Just give me a bit to get my bearings." She sniffed the air. "Mmm. But I will take a cup of that coffee." With a thump she attempted to turn the corner and walked square into the door pillar. Keres shook his head as he suppressed the urge to laugh. He leapt to her side and lifted her gently from the floor.

She blushed and shook off the stun from walking full force into the unforgiving wood. "Hello, Adara," she said weakly.

"Hi, Aunt Vu," Adara smiled. "I heard you came back for a visit but I have been so busy at school that I couldn't get away until today."

Dawl smiled at her young niece. She was her father's child in so many ways. The former Archmage was one of the very few Paragon citizens that called her "Vu", and Adara was quick to adopt this as her favored way of addressing her favorite aunt.

"How's school?" Dawl and Keres asked, nearly in unison.

"Great," Adara answered, enthusiastically. "I love all my teachers, and the subjects are so much fun! Some of it is more geared towards humans," she paused. "There are things they learn to do with spells that I could do from the time I was a baby. But it is fun to learn, just the same."

Dawl nodded. "How's your mom?"

Adara scowled. "I don't get to see her very much. It seems angels always have lots of work to do. I miss her a lot but she does visit when she can." She gritted her teeth. "I wish things could go back to the days when...when she and daddy were together a lot...and when we had our little home in Kings Row. Someday I will get revenge upon Naimah for taking all that away from us..." her voice trailed as a dark grimace crossed her features.

Dawl watched the thoughts churning behind Adara's glittering golden eyes and shook her head. "The legions of the Dark One are quite powerful, Adara."

"I know, Aunt Vu, but Sheken and I made a vow. We are going to someday have our revenge."

The tiny demoness shuddered. She remembered Sheken's ordeal at the hands of the vile Naimah and her cohorts. The events set in motion by the machinations of the hellish princess and her vile plot tore the entire family apart. She was still infuriated with her headstrong offspring's exoneration of the man who Naimah had sent to kidnap and kill her. Sheken had chosen to not only forgive but to remain furiously loyal to Marcus despite her mother's continual protests. This still caused no small amount of tension between Dawl and her only daughter. At least she could take small comfort in the fact he'd at least served a prison sentence for his deeds. The brief imprisonment was better than nothing, she reasoned, though it was nothing close to what she'd have wished for his punishment.

Adara saw the tension crossing her aunt's features and moved to quickly change the subject. "So how was your vacation? I hear the Shard has some awesome and beautiful sights. I guess Mom and Dad used to go there sometimes."

Dawl smiled and nodded. "It's an amazing, magical place. There is an incredible amount of mystical energy there."

Keres wandered back off to the kitchen as the ladies moved towards the den. In a few moments he returned with two steaming mugs of coffee laced with rich cream and smelling of exotic spices. He handed the fuller of the two to Dawl and the other to Adara. She inhaled the scent and smiled. "Hair of the dog," he grinned.

Adara shot her a puzzled look and leaned forward to pick up the aroma. As the tinge of alcohol burned lightly across her sense of smell, she laughed. She didn't know what the phrase meant but assumed it referred to whatever Keres had lightly imbued Dawl's beverage with.

"Hair of the dog is a human phrase that refers to taking in a small amount of alcohol to take the edge off of a hangover the morning after you've been drinking," Dawl explained to the girl. She was sure Az would probably disapprove of her enlightening Adara in the worldly points of education. But then, Az wasn't here to protest, she noted to herself with a grin.

With a long draught of her drink, Dawl resumed her previous story. "Anyway, when we got back, Keres found this nasty impish little creature flitting around the room. I held it still with a Tesla cage," she said, making a circular gesture with her hands that caused a miniature ball of crackling electricity to hang in the air, "and he promptly disposed of it. But not before it had flung this purple... residue all over our nice clean room. We had to go back to the office and let the management know what had happened. They were nice enough to put us in another room right away, and even sent someone to check the room before we moved our things."

"Fun," Adara said, with a sardonic expression. "At least no one was hurt."

"No one except that rotten Natterling," Keres added.

Dawl laughed. "The way they throw globs of that dark energy residue all over, Keres once said they remind him of poo-flinging monkeys at the zoo. They make me think more of the flying evil monkeys from that old movie about that girl named Dorothy."

"I bet you saw all kinds of fantastic creatures there, didn't you," Adara responded.

"Mmhmm," Dawl said, taking another deep swig. "It really is an interesting place. The scenery is breathtaking."

"But, it is also dangerous," Keres added somberly. "Don't go alone."

Adara nodded. "I really enjoy living in Salamanca. It is also a place of great mystical energy. Despite the conflicts among the factions that inhabit it, the town is very peaceful at times. Of course, I am under the constant watch and care of the Cabal. They tend to keep me rather insulated from any dangers."

Dawl smiled. She knew Mary and her girls would protect Adara as if she were one of their own. That was one of her motives for introducing the girl to the wise sorceress.

"Sometimes," mused Adara, hesitantly, "I wonder if being insulated is not going to hinder my career as a hero. I fear it might make me weak or careless once I have to face villains in the real world."

"Do you forget, young lady, that you were facing villains, arch-villains even, in the real world before you were even old enough to ride the monorail by yourself? Your mother and father have told many stories of how helpful and unafraid you were."

Adara blushed. "Perhaps you are right. But even then, I had Mom and Daddy to protect me."

"I am sure they did. But you also protected them. Your kinetic forces often helped them to gain the upper hand."

"Am I considered a demon, Aunt Vu?"

The sudden, straightforward question took both Dawl and Keres aback. Keres quietly rose from his perch on the arm of the sofa and retreated to the kitchen, presumably to check on the pastries. Dawl swallowed hard and thought about what to say for a moment.

"Well, I'm not sure...." she began. "After all, your mother was considered a Nephilim because it was assumed her mother was human. Of course, we did some research, after the conflict with Xandaros, that showed that her mother, Chrysis Apokalita, was not only a war priestess of her Amazon tribe, but a fourth generation Nephilim herself, making her only one sixteenth human. That leaves your mother being one thirty-second human. This was just enough to bind her to a life in a human body, but also enough to give her an amazing amount of demonic energy."

Adara's eyes grew wide. "You mean, my mother was almost fully demonic?"

"Yes, and no," Dawl explained, slowly. "Do you understand the difference between what humans label 'angels' and 'demons', Adara?"

Adara gave her a puzzled look. "Why, angels are good and demons are bad."

Dawl shook her head. "Are you saying I am bad?"

Adara blushed. "No, that isn't what I meant."

"Well, sometimes I am, but that's another story, one that'll have to wait until you are a bit older. I am fairly certain your mother would come unglued if I were to enlighten you at your age," Dawl said with a small laugh. She smiled at her young niece. "However, I believe it is time for me to teach you a few things about your heritage, Adara. Angels and demons are all the same beings. At one point, they all lived in joyous union with the Creator. However...there came a...conflict. Eventually, one of these 'angels,' Lucifer, became arrogant and vain. The Creator worked hard to create this universe centered around His greatest work humans. He was very proud of them and ordered the Hosts of Heaven to bow down in reverence to His newest masterpiece. Lucifer, along with some others, refused. It is said that he asked of the Most High, 'Shall a son of fire be forced to bow before a son of clay?' Lucifer was banished from the realms, no more to live among his obedient brothers and their Creator. He vowed to defeat the Most High and assume reign of all the heavens and creations for himself. Some time later, the Creator saw that His young children were in need of some guidance, so he sent the Watchers, a band of angels who were instructed to gently guide the developing new race in the right directions. Unfortunately, instead of helping the humans improve, they became corrupted themselves, and were also banished from the realms of the heavens. One in particular, Azazel, was captured and imprisoned. But not before he sired several offspring amongst the human females."

Adara nodded. She knew that the powerful demon prince was her grand-sire. It was a subject she often tried to press out of her conscious mind. "How is it that you are still alive if he was imprisoned so long ago?" she queried.

"Ahh, these are creatures that do not know boundaries of time and place as the humans do. They exist outside this plane we know as our 'universe' and can move freely from amongst any points within by stepping in and out of the boundaries."


Dawl thought for a moment. "I imagine your mother could explain this far better than I, for I only have secondhand knowledge of the mechanics of such things. She's actually been there."

Adara's eyes widened as she pondered this thought.

"The Creator set the boundaries of space and time when He created the humans. These boundaries do not apply to what humans refer to as 'spiritual' beings."

Keres returned from the kitchen bearing a plate of warm pastries. His gaze shifted back and forth between his tiny mate and her niece. It was amazing how grown up Adara had become. It seemed like only a short time had passed since she was spending the night with them in her little footed pajamas and dragging a worn old teddy bear. He smiled as he passed the warm food in front of them to give them each a good sniff at the sweet aroma. They all moved to the worn sofa as he sat the plate on the coffee table for all to share.

"So," Dawl continued, between bites as she carefully chewed and swallowed the gooey pastry, "the difference between what you call demons, and angels, is in their actions. They are the same creatures. Some are referred to as 'elohiym, which means 'obedient ones' and some are 'sa'iyr' or what we call demons." She licked her lips and gave her niece a warm smile.

"Does this mean that because my mother was obedient she was made 'elohiym instead of sa'iyr?"

"Basically, I would say yes. Though that decision can only be made by the Creator. Normally, when a Nephilim dies, and their life force is released from the mortal body, they become an evil spirit. They join the ranks of the sa'iyr and are bound for judgment as such. Your mother worked all her life against the forces of the sa'iyr, even though no one taught her to do so. She used her human aspect's free will to decide to forsake evil and embrace good. I am sure that is why she is an angel now."

Adara licked icing from her dainty fingers and nodded thoughtfully. "What does that make me?"

"Well...I am not fit to judge you, nor is any other human. Your actions determine how you will be judged, and whether you will be found obedient or rebellious. Do the best you can, Adara. Be the best person you can be. Do good and not evil to those around you. That is all you can do."

"But that really doesn't tell me WHAT I am," she sighed in frustration.

"Does it matter? Your father is basically human. Or I should say WAS basically human. Okay, so he came from a different dimension. But he was still a human. Then when he was fused with the Nictus, he became a Warshade. Does that make you a Warshade? No, of course not. No more than your mother being the daughter of Azazel made her a demon. She chose not to be. What you become is not determined by your DNA. It will be the result of the choices you make."

Adara nodded slowly. What her aunt was saying made sense but it still did not allay her fears that somehow she was tainted by the bloodline of evil in her ancestry. She drained the last dregs of her coffee and savored the spices as they lingered on her palette.

Her aunt smiled warmly as she stood and tightened the belt on her robe, tugging hard in a futile attempt to pull the garment tighter around her generous bosom. "I," she began slowly, "think I am going to go take a quick shower and get dressed. Do you mind, Adara?"

"Not at all, Aunt Vu. Take your time."

Keres opened his mouth as if to speak when Dawl cut him off with a firm gaze. He chuckled softly and nodded. He motioned towards Adara's empty mug. "Refill?" he asked.

"Sure," she answered brightly. "That was delicious."

He grinned. "Dawl mixes the spices. I just scoop it out of the canister and pour water into the coffeemaker."

Adara nodded as he turned and headed towards the kitchen. Absorbed in thought, she walked to the window and leaned forward to gaze idly outside as the morning sun sifting through some high wispy clouds dappled the sides of buildings. A flash of red streaking past the window snapped her out of her daydream. Jumping up, she entered the dining room and walked over to the patio doors leading out onto a small balcony.

"Sheken!" she squealed happily as her cousin landed gracefully on the gravelly concrete. She ran to embrace the older girl with an enthusiastic hug.

"Is mom awake yet?"

"Yes," Adara answered. "We were just having coffee. Aunt Vu went to take a shower."

Sheken smiled and glanced in through the patio doors to see Keres enter the den. "Marcus is waiting downstairs," she leaned in close and whispered.

Adara winced visibly. "Your mom is still upset with him?"

Sheken nodded. She made a put a finger to her lips in a hushing gesture as Keres walked out onto the patio.

Keres handed Adara her mug and nodded to Sheken, "Want some?"

She sniffed the air, picking up the heady aroma of the rich spicy coffee. "With Amarula?" she replied with an impish grin that before her birth had solely been a trademark of her mother.

Keres gave her a wry smile. "I'd ask you if you thought it was a bit too early for drinking, but that never gets me the answer I am hoping for from your mother, either." He laughed and disappeared into the apartment once more.

As soon as he was gone, Adara turned to Sheken. "You haven't told them yet, have you?"

Sheken looked down at the exposed aggregate of the balcony as she edge backwards into one of the patio chairs. "No," she answered, her voice little more than a whisper.

"Do you want me to?" Adara offered.

"Nah. I am a grown-up now. I need to face her wrath for myself. Hopefully Keres will keep her from killing me." She gave a dark little laugh.

To Chapter II