#Cover Reveal: After the Ashes

I am working on a novella for readers of the Kingdom Come series. It falls between book one When Ash Rains Down and book two When Smoke Rains Down. It is told from Warrior Angel Mila’s point of view. (She’s mentioned briefly at the end of book two.) After the Ashes takes place during the same time frame as When Ash Rains Down, but will give insight and background into the hierarchy of angels in my series. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the world beyond Julia’s earthly setting. Here’s a sneak peek for you!

after the ashes

A Kingdom Come Novella: Mila’s story

Book 1.5 After the Ashes

When Rach’s Guardian Angel disappears, Warrior Angel Mila is assigned as her new Guardian. Busy competing with Nicholas for the spot at the head of the squadron of saints she doesn’t think she’s the person for the job, but can’t bring herself to tell Archangel Michael no. She’s determined to prove she’s the right angel to lead the saints in battle. If Nicholas can be both Guardian and Warrior, then so can she.  

Where Nicholas is strict and fierce, she’s fiery and impulsive. He’s a rigid Traditionalist, she’s quick and always ready to attack. But will her strength become her weakness when she continuously makes mistakes, and worse, falls for her rival? 

Who will earn the coveted position, especially once Nicholas’ charge lives… and hers dies?   

After the Ashes is a behind the scenes look at the hierarchy of angels from Cecelia Earl’s Kingdom Come series.

 

Chapter One

(A work in progress DRAFT)

The sound of metal screaming pulls me from my battle stance. All at once blackness descends upon our training grounds, cloaking its golden light with evil. I toss down my depleted bow and arrow and tighten the chains around my waist, gripping a Glory-filled sword. The bow and arrow shimmer before disappearing. They’ll be ready when I call upon them later.

With the cloud of smoke comes a smell so vile I nearly curl in on myself. Hyper-senses are both a blessing and a curse. The army of demons lower themselves, their every breath a puff of gray smoke that curls around our heads, arms, and legs. Angels from throughout the forest stop their workouts and band together to meet our enemies. We untangle ourselves from the tendrils of fog and release a surge of Glory, transforming our bodies. Protected by a golden aura of strength and courage, we prepare to battle, no longer muddled by a smoky haze or putrid smell.

“Mila, my sweet.” A voice, haggard from billions of years of hate and despondency, whispers in my ear. “We meet again.”

I refuse to say the demon’s name, but swivel, sword aimed at his chest. “What do you hope to gain from this?”

“Me, personally? Or, do you mean my group in general?”

I narrow my eyes and thrust the sword closer until the tip touches his scaly skin. Clothed in a gray suit, the button-up shirt below his jacket is open, revealing a green chest. His pupils are a blazing purple slit, his eyes black pits. The angel he once was is gone. Only the faintest resemblance can be found. Maybe in his chiseled cheeks or full lips, now spread across his wicked face.

When I don’t respond, he adds. “I’ve missed you.”

Revolted, disgust fills my mouth and I try not to gag. “You made your choice.”

“You were supposed to join me.”

“I said no, and I meant it.”

I look around. Nicholas is nowhere to be found. Archangel Michael isn’t far from me. He’s facing my direction, maybe watching me. Testing me. Time to up my game. I slide the tip of the sword up until it grazes my former friend’s Adam’s apple. “I’ll ask one more time. Why—and as importantly—how have you invaded this area?”

Never has a place this close to Heaven been so infiltrated by a swarm of Fallen as large as this. Especially a place covered in Warrior Angels. Lucifer has free reign—yet—but his minions? Not so much.

I glance over and find that Archangel Michael is indeed watching. And Nicholas has come into view as well, but it appears he’s distracted. I turn back toward the demon who’s babbling on.

“… all of this yes, sir and no, sir you go through.” He pushes my sword aside as if it’s a toy, ignoring the line of black ichor it releases from beneath his scaly arms. “You’d have none of it, if you changed your mind. Come with me.” He steps in toward me, so close his lips graze my ear. “I can promise, it’s so much better away from here.”

Shuddering, I jump back and flick the sword back to his chest. Before I can thrust it through, a cluster of his demon friends swarm us, grinning hideously.

“Mila. Still so pretty,” one says.

“Still so pure,” says another.

“Still so obedient.” My ex-friend, Legion, sneers.

There’s a flash of movement to my right. I pivot and leap straight up and out of harm’s way, landing behind my attacker. I whip around, intending to swipe my sword across Legion and his entire gang, but when my blade reaches the spot where he stood, he’s shoved one of his demon pals in front of him. I continue to slice through the lot of them, but Legion has disappeared, only his deep, rumbling laughter lingers in the polluted air. Having beheaded several demons, I rush to unwrap the detention chains from around my waist. Calling upon my core Glory, but before I join their spirits in the realm I’ve sent them to, I see that Nicholas has joined the fight. Ducking my head, determined to do this quickly to get back to the battlefield, I push through the ward, the division lines rippling like a wall of water.

The Realm of Detention is a vacuum, no air, no light, time stands still. It’s a long drawn out minute, never-ending. The boundless space is both burning and freezing. I cloak my skin in Glory to remain unscathed. Holding out my left hand, palm facing forward, I pull the demon spirits toward me. Once I have them before me, I lasso my chains to encircle each in its own detention space with its own chains.

The final one is fighting me, but I pull as tight as I can, still rushing more than I know I should to return before Nicholas can one-up me in front of Archangel Michael. Knowing him, he’s winning in detaining more spirits, giving instructions to that human charge of his, and commanding the nearby saints. It’s infuriating how he always winds up looking superior to me. Well, not this time.

I will earn the position at the head of the squadron of saints.

The click of the manacles isn’t as loud as it should be, but when I tug they seem secure enough, so I leave the demons to push back through the ward lines and rejoin the battle.

It’s beyond bizarre to see our training ground smeared with ugliness. Between the golden rays of shimmering light are streaks of smoke and billows of ash. The ground, usually lush and brilliant, is slick with demon ichor. Even the trees bend, duller, wheezing, as if trying to not breathe in the evilness of demon breath.

It’s their hazy breathing that seems to be taking its toll on Nicholas’s charge. She’s not looking so hot, and therefore he’s distracted. I roll my eyes. This takes away the fierceness of the competition. It’s hardly even. Yet, I puff out my chest when Archangel Michael takes note of my having detained Legion’s gang with a nod of his head.

As the battle wanes, Raze rushes up beside me. “Mila, what’s your deal?”

Startled by his tone, I lower my sword just as one of the remaining demons drops from tree limbs above my head. Un prepared, Raze lets a flaming arrow fly, converting his demonic body into a pile of vile ash.

“What are you talking about?” I ask.

He turns, his eyebrows lowered over amber eyes. “Word has it you’ve wreaked havoc in Detention.

My chest quivers, that flicker of uncertainty returning. The manacles. I narrow my eyes at him before bounding through the ward’s streaming walls into the airless black world away from worlds.

What he said is true. Demons are releasing demons. I find the set of manacles that had detained the final demons I’d placed there earlier. Empty… and faulty.

There are other angels hidden by time and space that I can sense rounding up the rampant demons as well, which means I’ve messed up and others know about it.

The sounds of demonic laughter are hideous and echoing until I hold out both palms and release a surge of Glory, pulling the lot of Fallen to me as if by magnetic force. With the same force, I send forth links of chains, wrapping them round and round, ensnaring the wicked, tightly this time. I coat each manacle with enough Glory that there’s no way they’re not perfectly secure.

Exhausted, but certain my work is complete, I return to the training ground, still encroached upon by once-angelic creatures. I shudder to think that once we all communed together, singing and laughing side by side.

Bow and arrow ready, I spin slowly, surveying the area, scanning the spaces between each tree, searching among the golden tree limbs. Nicholas, shoulders tense and angry, retreats with his human charge. He must’ve been told to leave the area to deal with her. I tighten my lips and shake my head. My success here today will be bittersweet, what with his competition taken out of the equation.

“Mila.” Archangel Michael is beside me, though I hadn’t noticed him approaching.  I chide myself for my mistakes today, but know he must’ve seen my artful fighting and the skill in how I was able to detain masses at a time. I’m much more efficient than my counterparts. There’s much I could teach a squadron that no other—not even Nicholas—could. Straightening up, I lower my weapon and face him, chin high.

“Sir,” I say. His eyes are golden and warm my face, paternal and caring. Yet, there’s something there, in his eyebrows and lips, something like dismay.

“You fought well today.”

I don’t smile, but blink and puff out my chest. “Thank you, sir.”

“But you must work to be more strategic and thoughtful.”

My Glory wanes and for a moment a waft of rank demon breath invades my nostrils. I cough. “Yes, sir.”

“Your impulsivity is a detriment that we can’t afford. Take care when you fight and detain.”

I nod, unable to speak through the stench.

He glances over to where Nicholas is retreating through the trees and he smiles. A smile that falters when his eyes meet mine once more before he moves on to oversee the other Warriors.

A smile that will propel me to fight smarter.

That will propel me to win, because the next time I will be the one who shines more brightly than Nicholas.

Charge or no charge, I will be the better Warrior, and I will be the leader Archangel Michael chooses in the end.

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