Chapter 2- The Burdens of Leadership

“Tell me we have something new to report.” Bethrael said with frustration.

“I’m sorry, My Lady.” Kushiel disappointingly answered .

Five dead mortals in under one month was bad enough, but the public manner in which their bodies were placed on display added additional pressure to bring the killers to justice. The relationship between the mortals and angels of New Eden was already strained enough as it was. It was difficult to blame the mortals for their distrust; after all, it was the angels who kept the mortals subjugated and docile for eons. It was the angels who served up their souls to the Archangels to feed their power. Even if the vast majority of the Kingdom’s angels were blind to what the Archangels were really doing, many of the mortals still blamed them for what transpired. Despite nearly a year passing since the fall of the Archangels, the revelation of what they were using mortal souls for still scarred many of the surviving mortals.

“I need something positive to report to the Council, Kushiel.” she responded.

“My best angels are working on it, My Lady.”

“I told you to stop calling me that!” Bethrael snapped.

“My apologies, ma’am. It is simply a sign of my respect.” Kushiel responded without missing a beat.

Bethrael rubbed her eyes in frustration. The stress of her position was wearing her down. She found herself quick to anger and often found herself snapping at those around her. The weight of the world was placed on her shoulders overnight. She never asked for a leadership role, but there was no one she trusted to lead New Eden into this new era of cooperation, not just between mortal and angel kind, but also between New Eden and the other major cities that were once enemies of the Kingdom.

“I’m-I’m sorry Kushiel. Forgive my outburst.” she said with a hint of shame behind her voice.

“It is quite alright, ma’am.” he responded back.

Bethrael was worried about Kushiel when they initially met. The long-time Captain of the Kingdom was one of many candidates suggested for New Eden’s head of security. There was quite a bit of controversy within the Council when Bethrael selected him for the position. Many mortals felt as though Bethrael betrayed their trust with the move. Cooperation, not punishment, was her approach though. The Archangels created an environment where angels were punished for failure. Bethrael refused to let New Eden fall into that trap. In order to do so, she needed to make a symbolic gesture that would tell the angels, who supported the Archangels for so long, they had a place within New Eden. Kushiel’s appointment was the perfect show of faith to those who feared they would be treated as war criminals. So long as he swore loyalty to New Eden, and continued to prove that loyalty, she would allow him to serve as her head of security. He proved to be more than adequate for the role and proved to be a steady and experienced advisor to the young leader.

“What has Imamu been saying?” Bethrael asked.

“He’s angry and expects unrealistic results…as usual.” Kushiel stated with an obvious disdain in his voice.

“I really need to avoid him for the time bei-“

Just as Bethrael was about to finish her thought, the doors to her chambers swung open.

“This is an outrage!” a man shouted as he stormed through the door.

“I insist you allow me to station a guard outside your door, ma’am.” Kushiel stated loud enough for the man to hear.

Bethrael looked at Kushiel and took another deep sigh. “Imamu…I was just telling Kushiel how we needed to set-up a meeting.” she lied.

“Do not patronize me, Bethrael! I was not put into my position to stand by while my people are murdered! The mortals of New Eden demand the killers be brought to justice!” Imamu shouted at her.

“We are still investigat-“

“Same line as last time!” he interrupted. “Your angels continue to

investigate, while mortals are being killed and their corpses are paraded throughout the streets. It is obvious this is the work of Kingdom Loyalists, and we demand immediate action!”

Bethrael swore if she heard the term ‘Kingdom Loyalist’ one more time, she would smash a hole in the nearest wall with Mjolnir. These loyalists to the old ways were an incredible thorn in her side. When she first took command of New Eden, she was overly confident that her Amazon strike force could snub out the loyalists in a matter of days. Days stretched into weeks, which eventually turned to months. They were becoming more emboldened as each day past. This recent string of murders confirmed that. They seemed to be targeting mortals in an effort to sow more distrust within New Eden…and it was working. The young leader clearly underestimated the tenacity of these fanatics. It was clear they were more organized than she gave them credit for, and the worst part was they were living among them in New Eden, hiding in plain sight.

“Imamu, Kushiel has his best looking into this.” Bethrael calmly responded.

“A former Kingdom Captain?! That is who we are to trust with this!” Imamu shouted. “We will not stand for you continuing to drag your feet on the matter!”

“I assure you, no one is more qualified than Kushiel. This investigation is a priority.” Bethrael said in an attempt to reassure the annoying mortal.

“For the sake of your position, I hope so! The mortals of New Eden are growing tired of inaction.” Imamu bluntly stated.

“Is that a threat?” Kushiel chimed in, as he stepped forward in an attempt to intimidate Imamu.

Bethrael held her hand up, ordering Kushiel to stand down. “No, Imamu is correct. The mortals have a right to feel safe in their home. Kushiel, dedicate all resources you can spare to this investigation, and make it our top priority.”

“Ma’am, the Council is meeting in a few days. I need men prepping the city for a security detail.”

“The Amazons can handle the security detail. Hildr will be present, so they will be very eager to ensure the Council’s safety.”

Kushiel nodded as he backed away from Imamu. “And Imamu, I need you to believe me. I am doing absolutely everything I can to bring the killer…or killers to justice.”

Imamu appeared to become disarmed with Bethrael’s earnest plea.

“More mortal positions on the Council would go a long way to appeasing my people. A single mortal representative is not enough to represent their needs. We should be treated as equals and given the opportunity for the same representation on the council the angels are afforded!”

“Hmph” Kushiel scoffed at the mortal. “Using a murder to further your political agenda, yet you claim me to be the ruthless one.”

“I would be happy to show you ruthless, Kingdom loyalist!” Imamu insulted.

Kushiel stepped forward again, just about at his wits end with the relentless mortal. Imamu stared down the New Eden head of security. This was not the first time the two of them had butted heads. Imamu was an aggressive politician during his days on Earth. Bethrael studied his profile after he was elected to his position in a landslide victory. His no nonsense approach in an incredibly chaotic parliament for his home country carried over to his current position well. By all accounts, Imamu was an incredibly generous man who fiercely fought for the equal rights of all citizens within his country. Unfortunately, his views drew the attention of unsavory groups, and he was assassinated during a visit to his hometown in Uganda. The fact that he died for his beliefs swayed the vast majority of mortals to vote him in as their representative. Bethrael held a deep respect for the mortal, but that did not mean she found him any less irritating.

“Enough! Both of you! We all seek the same end here.” Bethrael said as she shifted her gaze to Kushiel. “You have your orders. Find these killers.”

Kushiel took another deep sigh. “Yes…ma’am.” he said without breaking eye contact with Imamu.

“Imamu, follow me.” Bethrael ordered, as she walked over to a table

in her chambers. On the table was a map of New Eden with the city divided into grids. Kushiel exited the room and slammed the door behind him in frustration. “You must stop provoking my head of security.” Bethrael said as she shook her head to demonstrate her irritation with Imamu’s brash nature.

“You know I do what must for my people.” he replied.

“Yes, and you know I work for all of New Eden’s citizens, including mortals. I fought to free the mortals from the Archangels’ corrupted magics. People I cared for died in that war. I will not have you questioning my motives.” Bethrael occasionally felt the need to remind the politician of this. It was an effective tactic to calm him.

“You are right.” Imamu said, finally relenting. “Forgive me. It is the murders. They have my people on edge.”

“I know, and we will find who is doing this. You have my word, Imamu.” Bethrael said.

“Your word is better than most. Now, tell me, what is this map here?” Imamu asked.

“I was going to show this to the Council first.” Bethrael said as she stood over the map. “You and I both know we had to build a government from nothing. I know there has been frustration with the Council appointments, but we are pushing an initiative to create a new governing body that will work side-by-side with the Council. I was going to announce this at the next Council meeting, but I will let you be the first to know. We’ll be dividing New Eden into districts where a representative, mortal or angel, will be elected. Each district will have a fair representation, placing control of New Eden into the hands of its citizens.”

“And what of the Council?” Imamu questioned.

“The Council’s focus will shift to matters of foreign affairs. They will be ensuring a prosperous alliance between our lands. Decisions that affect day to day life in New Eden will be the responsibility of the new governing body. The two entities will work in tandem.”

“And what of you? Will you abdicate your position of power once we have stability, as you promised?”

“Once the foundation is set, I will happily step aside. I wish to complete my training as a healer and focus on this clinic.” Bethrael responded with sincerity.

“If you are half as good a doctor as you are a leader, I will happily come see you whenever I fall ill.” Imamu stated with a smile.

“Thank you, Imamu.” Bethrael said.

The mortal politician exited the chambers, leaving Bethrael alone with her thoughts. She sat down at her desk and poured herself a tall glass of wine. It was already late, and she had to be ready for an early morning address to the citizens of New Eden. She rubbed her temples in an attempt to relax herself. Leadership was a heavy burden. In addition to rebuilding the city, dealing with murders and fanatical loyalists, calming angry citizens, and finding a solution for a depleted Soul Forge, she also had to deal with the reality that a very real threat was still out there somewhere. This supposed primordial had yet to reveal himself since the battle of the Kingdom nearly one year ago. Updates from Athena and her crew were sparse. New Eden was in no way, shape, or form prepared for an attack. This fact ensured very few restful nights for her. She took a long sip of the wine, hoping to do a little self-medicating for a few hours of rest.

“Ah, the job wearing on you that much?” a familiar, but welcomed voice bellowed from behind her.

“Kushiel was right. I do need station a guard at my doors.” she joked.

“As if that would stop me.” he responded with a hearty laugh.

Bethrael turned to greet her new visitor.

“It has been too long, Zeus.”