Releasing Michael probably won't help Avery any more than waiting will. I'll have to distract him with one of his belongings so Lumiel can do whatever it is he needs to do before Gabriel gets to him. This could be painful...
"I don't know what you're talking about," Lumiel said, eerily echoing Nathan's question. The writer was sure he did, but just like him, he was trying to buy time. Again, Avarice rolled his eyes.
"Give me a break; you know exactly what I'm talking about," the Sin mocked him. "You might be a force of chaos, but even that is tempered. For one, you can't attack anyone directly unless directly attacked first, and I know better than to do that."
"Ha! That's a lie!" Lumiel smirked, lifting his chin in cocky protest. "I can name at least a hundred individuals I have accosted before, all without provocation. Job, for instance, and his family. You can't say I didn't attack them."
"Ah, but not directly. All the pain you inflicted on him was done behind the scenes, so to speak. Not to mention, you had to be allowed to do it at all in the first place."
While their exchange continued, Nathan made his way around the camp. He knew it was pointless to go for any of the new items; things like that were easily replaced and had no sentimental value. No, he knew he'd have to be harsher to get his attention, and that meant going after his prized possession: his sketchpad.
"Give it up, Lucifer," Avarice continued to tease. "The worst you can do is ruffle your feathers at me and try to trick me with that silver tongue of yours. Neither will get you very far, though that reminds me..." He stepped up to the edge of Michael's circle, giving him a wide, wide smirk. "You don't happen to know how much he weighs, do you? I've been making guesses, and by my estimate he'd be worth about $2,895,980.11 in solid, twenty-four carat." His laughed turned into a throaty croak. "Not bad on size alone, though I'd bet you'd fetch more on aesthetic."
"You had better do nothing of the sort!" Michael growled, getting as close to the edge of the circle as the spell would allow. "Or so help me..."
"Or so help you? Don't you mean so help you God?" The Sin delighted in the way both angels grimaced. "You're predictable to a fault and just as bound to the rules as he is, if not more so. I'd love to see you break through that binding circle." He sneered. "You wouldn't do it on premise alone. That could just be chalk, but if the rules said you weren't allowed to pass it..."
Avarice's bulging eyes widened even more as his head snapped towards Nathan. The writer stood by the stool, the sketchpad in one hand, a torn page in the other. He let it flutter to the ground -- revealing that it had been blank -- as he took hold of the next. This one had a half-finished sketch of Michael on it. "Avery's a very good artist," he said casually, tugging slowly on the edge of the page.
"Stop that." Avarice glared at him, a deep croak rising from the back of his throat. "That's mine."
"No," Nathan corrected, tearing out the drawing with a wince. "This is Avery's. And I'm not going to let you take it from him."
"It is mine!" the Sin repeated, taking a step towards him. "Avery is mine, and so everything that was once his is mine! Put. It. Down!"
"Okay." He set the sketchpad down, but held onto the drawing. Avarice took another step towards him. Meanwhile, Lumiel began muttering something under his breath. Nathan had to keep him distracted. With another wince, he took the picture in both hands and braced himself. He really didn't want to do this.
"STOP IT! THAT'S MINE!"
With a vicious, bellowing croak, Avarice lunged for Nathan, determined to get the drawing away from him, but at the very second he leapt, Lumiel finished his spell, a curtain of scalding hot oil falling between them. The Sin screeched in agony as he collided with the burning liquid, falling short of his charge and crumbling at Nathan's feet, writhing in pain. The writer could do nothing but stare on in horror while the oil popped and sizzled, searing his flesh.
"Look what you have done!" Avarice cried out, his voice deep and distorted. A black, viscous pus oozed off of him and pooled on the floor. "Look... what... you've... done..." He stopped moving. The last of the amphibian visage melted away, leaving the teen lying there, eyes half-closed, arms and face badly burned.
Nathan dropped the drawing and fell to his knees beside him, touching him carefully. "Avery..." The boy made a quiet moan, but closed his eyes the rest of the way. Nathan's heart sank. "No..." He pulled Avery up into his lap, placing his hand just beneath his nose: he was still breathing, but very lightly. He needed to get him out of there.
"We should've tried that a long time ago," Lumiel sighed as he broke the circle containing Michael. The other angel scoffed and began to say something, but stopped short, suddenly pushing Lumiel behind him. His sword materialized in his hand.
"It seems we are not yet finished with this."
The disgusting pool of bile that had separated from Avery was moving, flowing like a living thing across the floor, leaving a trail of gold in its wake. The bubbling mass grew exponentially with each inch it traveled, slowly taking on a more solid form. By the time it reached Lumiel and Michael, a grotesque frog-like creature towered over them, black mucus dripping from its gaping maw. It croaked in fury.
The warrior held his weapon before him, the blade glowing red with heat as small flames began to lick around its edges. Michael smiled. "So this is your true form, Avarice. I will make swift work of your destruction!"
Nathan was too busy with Avery to see the angel charge the monster and land the first blow. He'd pulled the teen up into his arms and was moving along the edge of the tunnel, trying to carry him out of there and get him help. The others could deal with the Sin. He slipped just as he left the intersection, his knee banging into the ground. Something tore through his jeans, cutting deep through his skin and sending a sharp pain through his leg. Nathan screamed but forced himself to keep going.
The air became abruptly still and suddenly cold. Deathly cold.
"I'm sorry, Nathan." The writer held onto Avery a little tighter. Gabriel was standing in his path, his pale form blending in with the shadows that surrounded him, looming like an apparition in the dark. The only thing Nathan could see clearly of him were his eyes, which -- though glowing with a brilliant red light -- were cold and serious. The angel's voice was barely a whisper when he spoke again. "He's dying. I have to take him."
"No." Nathan staggered one step back on his wounded leg. He knew he couldn't go that way. The only path out was through Gabriel. "Please, let me get him to a hospital. He might..."
"He's dying," he repeated, eyes narrowing. "And he's in a great deal of pain. Let me take the pain away, Nathan. He's been through enough."
The writer began to shake his head, but his wound suddenly seared with pain. He screamed again and collapsed, still holding onto Avery desperately. Gabriel moved towards him. "I'm sorry..."
"Hello? You find him yet?"
Wren. Nathan couldn't have been happier that he ignored their warnings and followed. If he could keep Gabriel busy, Wren could get Avery to safety. "Down here!" he called back to him. "Call an ambulance! He's hurt!"
"That isn't going to work," Gabriel said, still moving forward. Nathan reached down and felt for something, anything he could use. His hand landed on the piece of glass that had stabbed his knee and he didn't hesitate to grab it. He lifted the shard and placed the edge against his neck.
Gabriel stopped, but the air grew heavy. He glared down at him. "Don't you dare."
"You have to keep me alive. Leave Avery alone!"
"It's my job, Nathan. Don't play games with me."
"I won't let you kill him!" He pressed the shard against his skin, drawing a thin line of blood. "If it means I have to kill myself to stop you, then I will!"
"Last warning." Something in the way he said that worried Nathan. What if it wouldn't stop him? "Don't test me..."
It's now or never...