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The Hammer of God

Reginald Cook

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

1 Peter 5:8

Prologue

Pope Pius IX, as was routine when in Rome and not traveling, knelt in front of his chamber window at sunrise for prayer. Seven years removed from the start of his Papacy in 1846, and the anxieties of the church had not waned an inch. In fact, as time edged forward, the mire under his feet deepened.

Riot led to riot, and the Pope was pronounced a traitor to his country.

Palma, a papal prelate, was shot to death while standing near an open window. On the steps of the Cancelleria, where he’d gone to open parliament, his Prime Minister, Rossi, was stabbed to death, and Pius had been pressured to promise a democratic ministry. Then, draped in a homemade disguise, with the assistance of the Bavarian Ambassador, Count Spaur, and the French Ambassador, Duc d’Harcourt, Pope Pius escaped from the Quirinal, where his enemies had surrounded him.

Pope Pius returned to Italy, April 1850, after the French restored order to Rome. But cancerous opportunists, who struck down his authority, had terrorized the citizens and committed untold atrocities, all in the name of democracy.

However, nothing vexed the Pope’s soul like the vision he’d been wrestling with for the past two weeks. Every morning since it started, he rose before dawn and entreated the Lord with the prayers of an earnest man, begging for the nightmare to pass. This morning, he closed his eyes and moved his lips with wisps, and the heaviness came faster than usual.

Sweat flooded his face, burning his eyes, soaking the neckline of his white vestment.

Asmodeus and his band swept into the Pope’s chamber unnoticed and encircled the man on his knees deep in prayer, sneering and snorting their delight. Asmodeus towered over the Pontiff. The eleven others formed a semicircle around them both.

Pope Pius continued to pray, squeezing his eyes tight, his murmurs unintelligible. Asmodeus knelt down and whispered in his ear. Tears bled from under Pius’s eyelids, and he clenched his teeth and sobbed, “Why, Lord, why?”

Asmodeus and the others watched the Pope pray harder, this time stretching his hands toward heaven, begging for relief, and they laughed.

The windows of the chamber swung open and a brisk wind swept through. Michael and eleven of God’s strongest angels breezed into Pope Pius’s chamber, pushing back Asmodeus and his band of demons.

Michael recognized each fallen angelic being and took note.

Asmodeus, Chief of Demons, Balan, Prince of Hell, Buer, Commander of Fifty Legions of Devils, Hecate, Queen of Witches, Jezabeth, Demoness of Falsehoods, Naamah, Demoness of Seduction, Philotanus, Demon of Pederasty and Sodomy, Python, Prince of Lying Spirits, Ronwe, Demon Commanding Nineteen Legions of Devils, Semiazas, Chief of Fallen Angeles, Sonneillon, Demoness of Hate, and Vetis, a devil who specialized in the corruption and tempting of the holy.

Pope Pius relaxed a bit, the crying abated, but the prayerful murmurs increased.

“What business have you here?” asked Asmodeus, his voice deep, commanding.

“Our task is as always,” answered Michael. “One you know well.”

“We have permission to be here,” bellowed Asmodeus. “Granted by our Father.”

“For what purpose?”

A hideous, scaly smile spread across the face of Asmodeus. He reached inside his smoldering cloak and pulled out a thick, metallic sword. The others in his band followed suit.

Michael looked around at those with him. Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, Anael, Raquel, Raziel, the Archangels. Malakim and Dunamis, both associated with heroes, known to instill courage, also known as “The Shining Ones”. Camael, who wrestled with Jacob. Remiel and Tarshishim, who guide the soul.

Michael turned back toward Asmodeus, placed a hand inside his glowing robe, and pulled out a large mallet- like hammer, with a long, worn, sturdy oak handle. The other angels did the same.

Asmodeus took a deep breath and blew a smoldering orange flame from his nostrils. The fire wrapped itself around the swords of each of those who followed the demon.

Pope Pius cried out, “No Lord! No! Do not abandon thy servant!” A light, brighter than the essence of the sun, flashed through the room and when it faded, Asmodeus and the demons lay prostrate on the floor. Michael and the Lord’s host stood strong, their hammers glowing with the Holy Spirit.

Asmodeus and the others scrambled to their feet, violently waving their swords and slashing the air, spewing sulfuric fumes. They floated above the room, flames pouring from their nostrils like angry demonic bulls.

“Il Martello de Dio,” whispered Asmodeus.

Michael and the holy hosts rose to the ceiling, each hammer at the ready. Both groups charged forward, clashing into an explosion of fiery thunder. Outside the Pope’s window, the sky turned black, and lighting clawed the sky. A hard, dense rain pounded everything in sight, and the window shutters slammed against the building until they were torn from their hinges and sucked up into the sky.

Pope Pius jumped to his feet and summoned his aide. He sat behind his desk, dictated a decree, and made a list of twelve priests to be called to him at once. When the aide left the room the Pope fell back to his knees.

“Bless oh Lord, Il Martello de Dio, The Hammer of God.” Pius wept.

1

Gazing down into dazzling blue eyes, Charles Tolbert marveled at the milky softness of his lover’s skin. Women had rejected him over the years, casting him aside like a half eaten candy bar, but now he was in love.

Charles stroked dirty brown hair, soft and billowy, like cotton freshly plucked from an aspirin bottle. He closed his eyes, took a whiff of just washed skin, the scent of clean, with a hint of soap lightly engulfing his nostrils.

When he lifted his eyelids, the beauty before him enticed him to tears, but he gently bit his bottom lip, fending off the surge of feral emotion. Without invitation, Charles pressed his lips against a mouth he could no longer resist, the moist touch of which sent his heart a flutter, his senses a blur. He pulled back, sporting a smile that could shame the angels in heaven. But as quickly as it came, his joy dissipated like steam rising from the sea.

“What’s wrong?” Charles asked. “Have I done something wrong?”

“I can’t do this anymore,” his lover answered. “I’m sorry, but this is wrong.”

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