By Jess and Keith Flaherty
Some hero’s journeys don’t follow a traditional path. Sometimes they start in Hell. Lord Ronoven, known on Earth as BEN, has spent a couple of thousand years, nursing his secret hatred of his life in Hell and dreaming of his days as a human and looking for any excuse to take a break from being a petty functionary in the universe’s worst corporate parody. He’s been feeling especially stuck when Heaven and Hell learn of the birth of a child foretold in an ancient prophesy. Both sides hope to recruit her for an approaching showdown. The archangel MICHAEL reserves his forces, as LUCIFER sends agents after her whole family. For his own part, Ben, who thinks prophesy is the worst kind of pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo, plans to use the mission as an excuse for the world’s longest vacation. Meanwhile, Fallen angels almost manage to abduct the child, killing her mother, a direct descendent of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and sending the child and her father, an angel named ARI, on the run.
Ben enjoys his vacation for many years, using his perpetually youthful and handsome appearance to avail himself of the company of every college girl he meets and to drink in every decent pub he finds, as well as engaging in some clandestine heroism because he simply can’t help himself. Ben is traveling between diversions when he encounters the Gatekeeper (Cartaphilis, the cursed Roman guard of Pontius Pilate), named in the prophesy Ben had hoped to ignore. Going by the name of CHRIS and working as a professor at a Catholic college in Vermont, and thinking Ben is a just kid in need of help, he offers him a ride. In order to keep himself out of trouble with Hell, Ben decides to stick with Chris, just in case the prophesy proves true. When Ben arrives in Burlington, he finds an old friend from Hell running the local demon network. AIFE can tell he’s up to something, but wanting to help, assists him in going undercover as college student so he can enroll in Chris’s school to keep tabs on him.
Chris learns about the prophesy and discovers Ben’s identity. Ben tells Chris he wants to act against his orders and help him and they become friends. The girl, MAL SINCLAIR, is now eighteen and living with her father in a little house on Lake Champlain. Traveling around, shielded from her lineage and the prophesy, has interfered with Mal having an ordinary life, and Ari is trying to give her a normal senior year. Ben and Mal meet through Chris, who also teaches at Mal’s high school, and Ben is surprised by his reaction. His human life ended when he was only about eighteen, and although his soul has survived thousands of years, he had no idea what falling in love would feel like, or that he was still capable of such a thing after all his time Below.
When he realizes who Mal is he determines to protect her no matter what it costs him. It isn’t easy because the magic that protects her hurts Ben every time they touch. Ben and Chris attempt a dangerous spell to allow Ben to be near her. Despite being painful and life-threatening, the spell is effective, allowing their budding relationship to bloom. Because Hell hasn’t forgotten him, Ben is forced to play a dangerous game, living a double life, reporting to monstrous fallen angels. Ben risks everything to create a weapon that he can use to kill angels if any of them come for Mal. In Hell’s pursuit of the prophesy, a powerful Hell-god possesses one of Mal’s friends during a party, and she casts it out, which leads her to discover that Ben is a demon. She manages to accept Ben as he is, but soon she also discovers her own true nature, her family, and the prophesy. Mal’s guardian angel, Davidos, whom she has known as UNCLE DAVI, along with Ari, Ben, and Chris, help Mal learn of her power and magic, and to recruit allies, including Aife. Rather than driving them apart, their differences and the things they are facing only deepen Ben and Mal’s feelings for each other. It becomes clear that neither Heaven nor Hell is easily identifiable as the real ‘good guy’ that would make Mal’s role in the prophesy easy and perhaps give them a glimmer of hope for a future together.
Some of Mal’s protectors believe the creatures hunting her are close and try to get her to leave her home. Mal refuses, thinking only that she wants to keep the life she has, wants a life with Ben. He doesn’t know how he can give her that, but offers to go with her, wanting her to be happy, as well as safe. She still refuses to leave and is determined to use her leverage with the other realms to bargain for Ben’s release from Hell’s magic. Unfortunately, Heaven and Hell have other plans, turning up at her graduation party in the park. Hell tries to force her to go with them by torturing Ben and wreaking havoc on the city. Heaven thinks only to stop Lucifer’s plans as Mal frees Ben, and her allies fight to get out of the park. A terrifying Hell-god manifests on Earth and Heaven sends an avenging angel to destroy him, unconcerned about collateral damage.
Mal and her uncle combine powers to get everyone away at the last moment; even pulling two of her friends along. Because they have found no way to anchor themselves to their human bodies on Earth Ben and Aife are forced to return to Hell and pretend that they are still loyal to Lucifer. Ben promises Mal that he will come back and find a way to have a life with her no matter what. Other angels try to help Ari and Mal figure out what to do now that Heaven and Hell have shown their true colors. Hopeful that Ben will return, confident in his promise and his abilities, and determined to make a life for herself regardless of what Heaven and Hell want, Mal prepares her friends to go on the run. Despite being devastated by events, and worried about what could be happening to Ben, Mal knows she still has a choice before her. Good or Evil? Her decision could change the world. She knows it will change her life.
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