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American Atheist: #18

by Nelly 

Posted: 19 October 2005
Word Count: 5405

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Elia took care to finish his coffee, savouring its burnt taste. He would not make eye contact with Naldo. He understood the Priest was upset -even angry- but he refused to be intimidated. He must not show any fear. But despite his best intentions, his body trembled as he lifted himself from his chair.

A firm hand fell upon his shoulder, shocked Elia realised Naldo had crossed the room.

“You’re not seriously considering what the Bishop said?” Naldo asked, placing his hands firmly upon Elia’s shoulders.

“Give me a reason not to?” his voice sounded weak, fragile, as if it wasn’t his own.

“She is an American, a pawn in the games of others. I feel -I know- nothing but disaster will come from this.”

Elia cleared his throat; his mouth felt dry, he wished there was water to hand. “The bishop has asked for full disclosure.”

“The bishop said this, the bishop said that, but what about cardinal Gallo, what does he want. Do you really think Cecilio has told the cardinal what he intends to do?”

Elia’s heart beat wildly; he tried to control his breathing. “Cecilio would not lie to the cardinal, he wouldn’t dare.”

Must not feel fear.

“Oh shut up you old fool, Cecilio would dare and more, he has no one to stop him. When the cardinal finds out, it will be us who take the blame, not Cecilio. You’re not part of the inner circle, they would kill you for this -or worse.”

Elia flinched and Naldo sneered. “Of course,” he continued, “you don’t know what the Gift is? They don’t trust you to keep their precious secret.”

“It…it… will only be a matter of time,” Elia stammered.

Must not…

“Before what? Before you die! Wake up old man, you’re eighty years of age, you don’t have any time left!”

Elia looked away, his hands shaking.


Naldo relaxed, sitting back into his chair. “Is that why you do the Bishop’s bidding, help him with his dirty trade, playing the friend so you can…” he paused, savouring Elia’s discomfort, “gain the Gift? Stave off the inevitable march of decay -become a young man again?”

Elia summoned the last of his strength in a desperate bid to overcome the worms of fear twisting his guts. “Remember your place,” he shouted, “it was not so long ago I saved your miserable life. Now show respect for mine.”

Naldo powered from the chair, grasping Elia by his jacket, lifting the frail man easily into the air. “Save my life?You destroyed it!” He thrust Elia against the wall, placing his face only inches from Elia’s own. “You should have let me die...let me become part of the collective purity that waits beyond the darkness.” Tears formed in his eyes. “Suffering is a purgatory, which brings us closer to God. Only the pure can enjoy His vision.”

“I prayed in requiem for your soul! I said the Dies Irae –the day of wrath,” Elia whispered, “”that day which will scatter the universe into embers, by the witness of David and the Sibyl.””

Elia snorted in disgust, letting him go. “But still they brought me back. Your faith has spared me purgatory, leaving only damnation. That’s the problem, you have never understood, you seek to stop the inevitable.”

You’re alive.”

Naldo looked at his hands. “Am I?” he mused. He sniffed the air, his nose quivering, “But you’re dying.”

Elia looked shocked. “No,” he said too quickly, “it’s my age, nothing more.”

“I can smell it on you, through the nauseating stench of your own fear. I can smell the cancerous lump sitting in your belly. Cecilio knows it too, his senses are far more acute than mine and still he wont share the Gift with you.”

Elia broke then. Tears rolled across his cheeks as he extended his hand. “Please Naldo, this is my last chance -help me.”

“Should I tell you what the Gift is? How we came about it, where it is now? Should I betray the trust of the inner circle or…” he paused and put a single finger to his lips, enjoying the moment, “ perhaps I should let you die, either old age or cancer will claim you, I wonder which will be first? I would be doing you a favour; it would bring you closer to God. Or is that what you fear? A life full of sin has its consequences.”

Elia came to him, gathering Naldo’s hands within his own. “I know what you say is in anger and full of spite, but I also know deep inside there is still a good man, will he not show piety to his old teacher.”

Naldo thrust Elia back; the Jesuit priest stumbled and fell. “That good man,” he snarled, venom lacing each word, “tried to kill himself, when he was saved by your limited understanding, what came back was this!” he swept a hand across his body. “But who am I to deny a dying man a last request. Listen well to the folly of the Church, and then see if you still want the Gift…”


After Naldo had finished talking, the weight of his words settled like a weight over Elia. He struggled with what he had been told, tempted to pretend it was a lie, but one glance at Naldo’s silver eyes and stern face, proved that it was not. He propped himself up on his arms and struggled to rise, an act that sent lances of fire shooting through his legs. When finally he had made his chair, he fell into it exhausted.

Naldo watched him hungrily and Elia glanced quickly away.

“It has a name?” he asked.

“Kill her,” Naldo said casually, “it’s the only way. Others are coming, we cannot allow them to access what the Church has stood for.”

What was its name?” He demanded.

Naldo’s eyes shone, a smile twitched at the corners of his mouth and he told the Jesuit priest its name.

Father Elia buried his face in his hands. “No,” he mumbled, “how can we be so blind?”

“Now we are even,” Naldo whispered.


Unita watched an old man bent with age enter her cell. He looked ancient and worn -a faint wind might knock him over. She was surprised he still lived at all. He carried in one hand a metal bowl filled with pasta. He closed the door and regarded her with a mix of sorrow and pity, his eyes red and blood-shot. “You needn’t look like that,” his voice was gravely and deep, at odds with his frail figure “there’s still life left in these old bones.”

She said nothing, unsure of what he might do.

“You must be hungry,” placing the food on the floor before her he added, “eat while it’s still hot.”

She glanced at the bowl, it smelled faintly of tomatoes and herbs, but made no move towards it.

“I can assure you it’s fine, I made it myself. We have finished with the drugs, for now.”

She caught the implied threat and considered throwing the food away, but hunger won through and she began to eat.

He watched for a while, studying the curls of her hair which framed her round face. She seemed so out of place within the cell. A small dark girl sat within four whitewashed walls eating pasta with her fingers. He noted a faint sour smell and realised she was in dire need of a bath and change of clothes.

“Are you cold?” he asked, but she ignored him, ramming the food as fast as she could into her mouth. He waited patiently for her to complete the meal. Once she had finished and wiped at her clothes where the food had fallen, he asked instead.

“Are you afraid?”

The suddenness of the question made her pause and her eyes darted around the room. “Should I be?”

“Yes. There are people here who would hurt you -or worse. Much depends on you, Unita. You could yet live through this.”

She put the bowl down. “Are you one of those people who want to hurt me?”

He smiled, an act that caused a thousand lines to explode across his face. “No. I am trying to help you.”

Unita nodded, but said nothing. She wasn’t sure whether to believe the old man or not. Considering the other two encounters in the cell, she had to assume that he was either lying or had his own agenda.

“You have been charged with being a spy. Your entire race has been condemned to death. The question you need to answer, then, is: Are you prepared to die for your faith?”

“But that’s not true, Rome is in a truce with America, they protect the Great Secrets,” she blurted and then realised her error, quickly shutting her mouth, but it was too late, the damage was done.

“You know?” he sighed. “A shame. It’s a horrible thing, is it not, for so many people to die because of a fabricated cause? I can assure you it’s for the greater good, far more would be dead, if it were different.”

“There is no good in any of this. Just lies stacked upon lies.”

“I can offer you a way out, if you want it, it won’t be easy, much of what you will be told will be difficult for you to accept. But accept it you must, if you want to live.”

“You’re mad. I can’t escape from this.”

“But what if there were a way, what if I could show you something that would wipe away all your self- doubts, even challenge your belief in atheism?”

“Now I know you’re insane. You’re not going to quote scripture at me?”

“Actually, I’m going to prove to you, there really is a God.”

His self-assured nature shocked Unita, and to her surprise she smiled.

“Nothing short of God himself, will shake my faith,” she said.

“Even so, I remain confident you will see for yourself how lost you have become.”

Unita put her head back against the wall and rolled her eyes. “You are going to preach scripture at me, I knew it, be warned, I’m armed with atheist quotes myself.”

“I’m glad you still have a sense of humour. Let me ask you a question, where do you think you are?”

“I don’t even know who you are?” she countered.

The old man chuckled. “I am Father Elia Delaney, but you may call me Elia, if it pleases you.”

Unita shrugged her indifference. She studied the man before her, he wore a gentle expression and his eyes, although sore, seemed earnest. At odds with every-one she had seen so far.

“So,” he pushed, “do you know where you are?”

“Does it matter?”

“Perhaps not to you, but indulge my whim.”

“I would guess,” she said after a moment’s hesitation, “that by the dog collar you’re wearing and the collar that Naldo wore earlier, I’m in the Vatican?”

Elia’s eyes flashed with concern when she mentioned Naldo.

He recovered quickly. “It’s a good guess. And you’re right, although to be precise, you are actually beneath it.”

Unita raised an eyebrow, “Below it?”

“Six levels down.”

“Oh,” she glanced around the room, “not as impressive as the rest of Rome.”

That produced another dry laugh from Elia. “No,” he murmured, “I suppose at first glance it appears that way. But like all of Rome this has history and,” his laughter faded, “it is old, ancient in fact. Predating the founding of the Catholic Church. The tunnels were built in the time of the boy Emperor, Elagabalus, in AD 220; its original purpose to hide the wealth of the Syrian god El-Gabal, of which Elagabalus had been a high priest. Have you heard of him?”

Unita shook her head and Elia nodded.

“I didn’t think so. A shame, Rome’s history is a critical part of our past.”

Unita tried to gauge the man before her, uncertain of his motives.

“Why are you telling me this?”

“To impress upon you, that you are part of something that spans nearly a quarter of the time of the entire existence of mankind. These tunnels, the city above, the Church, are all extremely old, rooted deep within our past and have an important part in shaping who and what we are.

“Now Elagabalus only started these tunnels,” he continued, “he never had a chance to finish them. He wasn’t loved by his people, his sexual desires even at odds with the orgies and fetishes of ancient Rome. Rumour persisted he liked to dress as a woman and offer his services in whorehouses across the city. Needless to say he was killed shortly into his reign, his head and that of his mother were tossed into the river Tiber. But what the boy began, a man completed. Now you must have heard of the Emperor Constantine?”

Unita shrugged, the name had no bearing and she couldn’t recall it being mentioned at her school or even at Nonchurch.

“It doesn’t matter,” Elia said, although he looked annoyed. “Constantine marched against Rome to dispose of Maxentius who had assumed the title of Emperor some months before. Their two great armies met by the Milvian Bridge near the river Tiber and a fierce battle was fought.” Elia’s voice softened, “ it was a critical moment in history, because Constantine had made a pact with God. It has great importance on us both because it was under the Emperor’s orders that the tunnels were expanded and the levels added to.” Elia patted the wall. “And what he placed here would change the world as we know it forever…”


Sergius came to Rome in the year 328, a Centurion in the army of Constantinus the Great.

Constantinus marched on the capital, intent to conquer and secure the western half of the Empire and was met by Augustus Maxentius’ troops just before the Milvian Bridge.

The soldiers were uneasy, whispering of desertion, but never openly and never to Sergius. He commanded the third centuria of Cohort 1. His official rank was Hastatus, a title he had earned, but rarely used. While rank was important and he secretly hoped the coming battle would advance him to the second centuria, he did not wish to appear above the men, having seen other centuria Hastatus’ betrayed and left for dead in the field of battle -he had no desire to join them.

Sergius was fiercely loyal to Constantinus, having fought alongside him against the Persians and hailed him as the new Augustus in Ebucarum when his father had died of illness.

Still, he saw the look of doubt in the eyes of the men and felt their fear in his own belly.

On the eve of war, Constantinus walked amongst the troops, openly and without escort. He moved from campfire to campfire and soon attracted a number of the Legionnaires.

Sergius pushed his way past the soldiers, “What’s happening?” he asked.

“We must paint the symbol of the Christ upon our shields,” a soldier responded, confusion ringing clearly in his voice.

Not understanding either, Sergius boldly approached Constantinus and knelt before him. “My Augustus,” he said, not meeting the other man’s eyes, “why do you wish us to paint the Labarum?”

Constantinus was heavyset, with thick muscled arms built up over years of battle. His hair was cut short and curled, as was the fashion of the time. Now into his fortieth year, his face was weathered and a thick beard hid a deep scar that cut across his lips and chin, a memento from the battle of Verona.

“A vision,” he declared, placing his hand upon Sergius’ shoulder. “I saw this day, a figure both great and terrible. It spoke into my mind,” he tapped the side of his head, “telling me we would win, if we carry the Christian God to war and showed me its symbol.” He glanced up into the night and towards distant Rome, “It waits for me, upon a hill within the city. I must speak with it further.” Then he raised his voice to the assembled crowds. “If you do this thing we will be victorious! And we have not lost a fight yet. I know I ask much from you all, but do this for me and we will all be drinking in the halls of Rome as liberators and defenders of free men.”

Sergius was deeply troubled, but did as he was commanded, those closest to him grumbled the Christ was not their god, why turn to him now?

Sergius joked, it had been Apollo the sun god, son of Zeus who came to Constantinus in disguise, and the symbol they painted was his staff, no other. In truth, he argued, the symbols were so similar they could have been both. It stopped the soldiers’ complaints in any case.

The following day saw more bloodshed than he had ever seen in his military career and prayed he would ever see again. Thousands of men died before the Tiber, Maxentius’ Calvary raking their right flank. Horses and troops were caught in a tight killing ground, a grinder of meat, pain and suffering. Cohort one held the centre, with the third centuria pushed through to the front. Sergius thrust and stabbed, parried and blocked, his sword arm drenched in the gore of battle. Fatigue set in, but to stop would have been death, so ignoring the chilling numb creeping through his tired limbs, he pushed himself on, in an endless procession of combat and death.

When Maxentius’ infantry collapsed on the left flank, his army retreated to the Milvian Bridge. Victory seemed eminent. Following had proved difficult, the sheer number of the dead blocking their way. By the time Sergius reached the Tiber, Maxentius had ordered a second bridge of boats to be built, allowing his army to cross back into Rome. The fighting was fierce, hundreds more dying in the brief seconds that he watched. Then the bridge collapsed. The sheer weight in numbers proving too much for the floating pontoon to bear. Men were swept away or sunk to the riverbed, scrabbling at the straps of their bronze plated armour. In amazement, Sergius realised Maxentius himself was stranded on his side of the Tiber. In the ensuring melee a standard bearer appeared. The standard was ripped, but the symbol of the spear shaft decorated with medallions, stood clearly out above the carnage. It was to this Centurial Signum; the soldiers would rally. With new reserves of strength he charged on, plunging into the Tiber’s cold waters, whether by chance or good fortune -he would never know- he found himself before the Augustus.

Maxentius’ face was cut; a thin flap of skin hanging low over his eyes, his pallor grey, he held his sword before him, which wavered unsteadily, and he cursed them all in an endless babble of fear.

None of the soldiers moved, each waiting for another to attack. The Augustus circled knee deep in the water; his eyes daring the men to fight -a silent challenge that none would take. When he came to Sergius, the blood had flowed from his wounds in such quantities, that he staggered and his eyes half-closed. His arm dipped and Sergius jumped forward, hitting Maxentius’ sword from his hand clean into the water.

Aided by five other men and cheered on by yet more, they pushed the Augustus beneath the Tiber, holding him down, fighting his feeble struggles, as they intensified into blind panic and then slowed, eventually stopping all together.

Sergius staggered to the riverbank, exhausted and utterly spent, he fell to his knees and surveyed the thousands of dead, stretching as far as he could see in either direction. The stench of iron lay heavy in the air, and little else moved around him. He realised then that he could already hear the clouds of gathering flies and that the silence of the dead meant victory.

The battle of the Milvian Bridge was won - Constantinus would be Emperor unchallenged.


He entered the city two days later, awe-struck by what he saw. Rome was a city of hills, of mud brick, red tiles, concrete and marble. Within its centre -its heart- lay the great palaces and sprawling temples of the Gods, each of such colossal design he felt dwarfed by their splendour.

Truly, Rome was a city of miracles.

Storm clouds gathered overhead, casting deep shadows as he wandered through the narrow streets, they threatened rain and he pushed into the tight press of the market places, immersed in the constant clamour that formed the backdrop of the city -the pulse of Rome.

Hours later, tired of the noise he sought quieter refuge. Away from the centre, allowing his feet to take him where they would, he walked through roads that were silent, past buildings long since abandoned.

The people had suffered under Maxentius, but Constantine would throw open the trade routes and the citizens of Rome would live here again.

A cold drop of rain fell upon his helm and he realised the storm was about to break, his feet ached and he chose to return to the barracks. He then caught sight of the hill, visible through a narrow alley, and crumbling tenements. He thought immediately on Constantinus’ vision and crossed the street, eager to see where this ‘Angel’ had appeared.

As he emerged from the shadow of the empty buildings, he came to the base of the hill. It sloped upwards and was cloaked in darkness of the gathered storm, a muddied track cut up through the spongy earth leading to the summit, while near where he stood, several boulders lay, tiny flecks of amethyst glinting in the pale light. There was no sign of any Angel and he felt disappointed, then angry with himself. What did he expect to find? Proof of divinity? Or perhaps evidence that the divine had visited Constantinus.

He managed to laugh, a soldier looking for proof of life after death, he had best hope there would be none, he would go to Hades for those who had died by his sword. There was nothing worse than an old fool.

A small flock of sheep huddled close by, none grazed on the grass of the hill and he felt curiously uncomfortable by their worried stares.

A wind picked up, whipping at his cloak and the storm broke with a heavy shower of rain. He was about to turn back, when a flash of metal caught his attention and he looked to the hill’s summit.

There were soldiers up there.

Strictly none of his concern, he still would have left, if not for a brief flash of colour –purple- that followed.


His interest now piqued, he began the ascent. Was Constantine here? Surely, he would be addressing the Senate, basking in his much-deserved spoils of war. But as he neared, he could clearly see the purple robes of the guards. A full legion: fifty-nine or sixty men. They all looked inwards, none saw him arrive. Unusual to be able to approach men of renowned skill in such a manner, his pace slowed as he reached the summit.

The rain lashed at his face and the wind howled, perhaps the weather masked his arrival? Deciding to announce himself, he shouted. “Ho there Centurions, a bad day for a climb I feel.”

The response was unexpected, the ground heaved and a terrible shriek rang out from the circle of soldiers. They stumbled away, shouting amongst themselves, blades drawn, but a powerful voice called out.

“No, wait.”

It commanded instant respect, Sergius knew of only one man who could demand this from Centurions.

It was the Augustus, Constantinus.

He pushed forward and saw the Augustus standing before a vast pit in the ground. Strangely, he wore his toga of office, a heavy garment reserved for the private meetings of the Senate, but carried still his sword, the blade notched in several places, the hilt worn. He held the weapon firmly in his hand, but was backing from the pit, the mud sliding between his sandals.

Stand back,” Constantinus cried.

Sergius rushed to the pit’s edge regardless, extending his hand, his intention to help the Augustus from its edge, but his eyes strayed into the hole’s centre and his hand wavered when he caught sight of what lay within.

In the depths a giant stirred. A creature that Sergius could not have conceived of in his wildest nightmare. Over twenty feet tall, easily the size of a house, it wore a suit of thick red armour, a series of flexible plates, rising in ridges up the length of its long, ungainly limbs. Its face was a glowing metal helm, carved into a triangular point; two-slanted eyepieces shone with a white brilliance as if the being within was hotter still. It struggled to stand and with six fingered hands clawed at the earth. A terrible heat radiated from the creature, so intense; Sergius was instantly burnt and staggered back.

What is it?” he screamed, collapsing to the ground. His arm throbbed horribly, half of his face -the side he had failed to shield with his arm- burnt as if left out in the noonday sun.

It was Constantinus who answered, although he addressed all of his soldiers. “The answer lies before us, look, look to its chest.” The Augustus stood before the heat, although his skin was red and blistered.

Sergius glanced back at the beast, watching as it scrabbled in the base of the glowing hole and realised it struggled to stand, it was injured -weakened. Carefully keeping his distance; he shielded his eyes, staring hard at its armoured chest.

At first he saw nothing, but on closer inspection a symbol formed, with letters between. The symbol was an inverted cross, with hooks at the ends. They blurred for a second, as if they had a will of their own, then abruptly they formed into Chi and Rho - two letters of the Greek alphabet. The same symbol, which Constantinus had his soldiers paint on their shields.

“It’s the sign of the Christ,” he said, awe struck, “then what is this…” he could not think of a word to describe the beast.

Constantinus looked at him, “Is it not obvious?” he swung his arms out wide to the assembled guard, shouting. “The supreme God has sent us an Angel!” None looked convinced and when the creature bellowed again, the sound shaking the earth, causing Centurions to stumble, they backed away fearfully.

Sensing he was losing the faith of his soldiers, Constantinus stepped towards the pit. “You gave me a sign, two nights past, I looked toward the setting sun and saw that symbol,” he pointed an accusing finger, “it was you, an Angel of the Christ falling to Earth.”

The beast roared, a terrible groaning like the movement of vast rocks. Constantinus held his ground, if anything he edged nearer, the hair on his arms and head beginning to smoulder. “You showed us your sign,” he repeated, “your presence proves the one faith.”

Abruptly its head snapped around, those terrible eyes fixing Constantinus in their brilliant depths.

Bring me your dead,” it said.

Its voice cut through all other noise, sliced into Sergius’ mind like a burning knife, he screamed in agony placing his hands to his ears to block out the noise, but found he could not.

Bring me the followers of Maxentius, so I may become strong again.”

Sergius felt heat rise within his own body as the creature spoke, a rush of emotion, a desire to take his sword and strike down all those nearby. The soldiers closest to him lifted their own weapons, looking confused, their faces filled with battle lust.

Even Constantinus stared longingly at his own troops, but he let his sword drop as if it were suddenly hot. “No,” he cried, “it seeks to regain its strength. Stop it for the glory of Rome, for your Augustus -entrap this beast!”

Had it been any other man, his words would have fallen on deaf ears and it may have gone a different way. But this was Constantinus; he had led them across Italy, in campaign after campaign, loved by his people, worshipped like a god by the soldiers he fought alongside -they could not abandon him now. The Centurions came forward; taking their bronze tipped pilum from beneath their cloaks. The creature howled, and for two it was too much and they fled.

“Let them go,” Constantinus shouted, “focus on the Angel.”

The Centurions launched their javelins and they smashed against the beast’s armour, bursting into flame the moment they touched, but when one struck between the ridges of the metal, the beast bucked in agony.

Constantinus raised his hand to shout the order for a second volley, but the beast slammed its fists into the earth, and the ground leapt into the air, with an explosion of senseless noise.

Sergius dropped into the pit, entangled in the arms of a fellow Centurion, the other man’s face a mask of utter fear. They broke apart as they hit the bottom and the Centurion fell forward, landing against the side of the creature. Instantly his body exploded into flames, the flesh, muscle and even bone consumed in its terrible intensity.

He lay there stunned, uncertain of what to do, and felt the heat abruptly diminishing. He risked a glance at the beast; it was rapidly shrinking, from twenty feet to just ten, clouds of billowing steam rising from its armoured form. Yet, it lost none of its ferocity, grasping at the nearest soldier and holding him easily by the head, before thrusting its other hand through the man’s armoured back. The soldier screamed high and long before the creature tore out his spine. Sergius watched as blood poured from the corpse in great volumes, soaking into the armour, which began to pulsate with a heavy beat, like a great heart pounding.

It was feeding of their blood, feasting on the flesh of the living.

Too terrified to move, he could only watch as the beast turned to the rest of the guard, striking at each, ripping their bodies apart, like one might tear papyrus. Four managed to gather their wits, hitting with their blades, the weapons finding the creature that lay concealed within. It shrieked its frustration, sweeping its arm out wide, catching all four men in one single blow, crushing their bodies and sending them over the sides of the pit.

The wind rose and a thunderclap exploded overhead, which made the ground shake and sent tiny avalanches of mud and stone sliding down the hill.

The beast fell to its knees, within inches of where Sergius lay. He dared not move. All the others were dead. He looked for his sword, but it lay broken and warped by the alien heat, so he slid beneath a dead soldier, praying to Apollo and any other god he knew of that the thing might pass him by. But it did not. The soldier was thrown away, and six fingered hands closed over his own. Sergius stared into the burning white eyes and screamed. Again he heard its voice.

Death is not the end.”

He had no chance to consider its meaning, before an intense pain tore across his stomach, with horror he realised the beast was sliding its hands into his belly.

“Please,” he begged, “please stop.”

But it did not; it thrust its hands deeper, fusing the two of them together.

Then abruptly it threw him away. A blade materialised from out if its armoured chest. It grunted and collapsed, revealing Constantinus, rain trickling down his face and hanging in silver drops from his beard, thrusting his sword into its back.

The rain hesitated, then unleashed a torrent far greater than before. He couldn’t feel his arms or legs and noticed his clothes were soaked with blood. Strangely he could no longer feel any pain.

The last thing Sergius saw, before the world closed around him forever, was the beast, shrinking yet again, writhing in pain, impaled on the Augustus’ sword, Constantinus standing above it, victorious, his skin red raw, his hair singed, shouting the words.

“Remain with us a while, a Gift from the heavens, one in which I intend to enjoy.”


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Comments by other Members

Patsy at 14:53 on 19 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Neil,

This was a really intense section! Finally we get to find out about the "gift". I fear it is a gift I would not choose to take!
The name of this fallen angel wouldn't happen to be Luicfer would it?

The history sections are very well done. You can see the old priest sitting in the dim cell spinning his story around Unita.

Things to consider:

I only found one thing: It's been so long since I read the previous section, I forget what he wanted Elia to do with Unita. I'm sure that's only due to the lapse in read time, but it would hurt to mention it again somewhere in this section as they are arguing.

Enjoyed it very much -- Looking forward to the next section.

Pasty :)

Nelly at 16:10 on 19 October 2005  Report this post
Cheers Patsy for taking a look through.

Cecilio wanted Elia to tell Unita about her heritage and her exposure to the Gift while he went off on other business.
Naldo despises Unita, thinking that her continued presence is a threat to the Church. But rather than kill her himself, which would upset the Bishop and end very badly for him, he's attempting to use Elia's fear of his own death to do the job for him.

I'll have a look at making it clearer.

I shall remain tight-lipped about the name of the angel, although it does seem rather obvious.

Thanks again.


Patsy at 19:06 on 19 October 2005  Report this post
Thanks Neil,
I remember now! Her Dad had "the gift". My mind is slipping!

Patsy :)

paul53 [for I am he] at 10:52 on 20 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Neil,
This just keeps getting better each upload. There is a building depth and panorama to this.

Typos and suggestions:
“Save my life,” he screamed, “you destroyed it.”
“Save my life?” he screamed. “You destroyed it!”
or even
“Save my life? You destroyed it!”
as we can tell he’s screaming it.

“You should have let me die, to be part of the collective purity that waits beyond the darkness,” tears formed in his eyes, “Suffering is a purgatory, which brings us closer to God… ”
“You should have let me die . . . let me become part of the collective purity that waits beyond the darkness.” Tears formed in his eyes. “Suffering is a purgatory which brings us closer to God…

Elia was a broken man, tears rolled across his cheeks, he extended his hand, “please Naldo…
Elia broke then. Tears rolled across his cheeks as he extended his hand. “Please, Naldo…

Unita watched the old man enter her cell, his back bent with age. He looked ancient and worn out, a faint wind would knock him over -she was surprised that he still lived at all.
Unita watched an old man bent with age enter her cell. He looked ancient and worn - a faint wind might knock him over. She was surprised he still lived at all.

The question you need to answer then, are you prepared to die for your faith?”
The question you need to answer, then, is: Are you prepared to die for your faith?”

“You know?” he sighed, “a shame.
“You know?” he sighed. “A shame.

Elagabalus, in ad 220;
Elagabalus, in AD 220;

Maxentius’ Calvary were rumoured to be best amongst the world, but his army was largely untested, while the men that marched with Constantinus, had swept through Italy, winning all the battles they fought.
Do we need this, as Elias has already said this bit.

emerced in the constant clamour that formed the backdrop of the city


Nelly at 15:27 on 20 October 2005  Report this post
Cheers Paul,

I knew there was a reason I couldn't find immersed in the dictionary. All sound advice and I shall edit in your points either today or tomorrow.

Thanks for sticking with it.


paul53 [for I am he] at 19:58 on 20 October 2005  Report this post
Hand on heart, it's no trouble sticking with a good story.

scarborough at 19:48 on 02 November 2005  Report this post
blimey, in my absence I managed to overlook that this has been added to, and it's clearly been my loss!
I love huge epoch-spanning conspiracies involving religious organisations and the great figures of history, even those I know almost nothing about, and I have to say that I really feel this story has opened up in a very exciting way here. I'm really looking forward to the next chapter, too. One thing I would say is that I feel like a lot of information's being disseminated in a lull in the action, and as a reader I'm most interested in what happens next to Unita, rather than a power struggle in the church; there's all this stuff, and I want to see what the upshot is for your central character...

Nelly at 17:41 on 03 November 2005  Report this post
Thanks Scarborough. I'm also concerned about branching too far away from Unita and my next chapter doesn’t even have her in it. She is in the one after that and then I'm sticking with her for the rest of the foreseeable novel. I think I'm setting up all the elements I've introduced ready for the action to begin again when we return to her.

Glad you like it.

I’m thinking of changing the name though. It’s off putting for many readers, who think the religious aspect is all the entire book has to offer, have absolutely no idea what else to call it. If anyone has any suggestions let me know?


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