“This is a disaster,” said Hephistames. “It’s all unravelling while we sit here on our butts and do nothing.”
A shrug served for a reply as his companion went on polishing the blade of his broadsword. “You should have more faith,” he said at last.
“Bah, faith is for humans with their short-sighted vision. I can see perfectly well what’s going on all around us and it’s depressing. People are being slaughtered out there. Hundreds of the saints have been picked up by the authorities and thousands more have fled the city. And I’ve lost count of how many of the weaker ones have abandoned the Way, denying their Saviour. There are demons on every street corner and Beelzebub struts around clapping his talons and cackling with delight while we do nothing about it.”
“So?” Archelon swept his sword in a wide arc and smiled with satisfaction as it burst into flame.
“So?! It ain’t right to have warrior angels sitting in barracks while demon spawn are wandering the streets with impunity. If you ask me, I blame the Spook. I reckon he’s out of his depth.”
Archelon looked up at this, shock written all over his face. “That’s pretty close to blasphemy, don’t you think?”
“Doesn’t have to be,” replied Hephistames. “The way I figure it, he hears everything we say anyway so there’s no sense in not saying what we’re all thinking. Let’s face it, the Lamb did a sterling job – thirty years of obscurity followed by – bam – three years of the most dynamic ministry the world has ever seen. Like everyone else, I was speechless when he went and snuffed it, but three days later we all got a peek at the master plan. The guy’s a genius.”
The diatribe was interrupted by a diabolical scream of triumph from outside. Both angels gave an involuntary shudder before Hephistames continued. “The Spook is another matter. Sure, he got off to a good start – mass conversions, miracles, deep-seated repentance, impressive social action… topping Ananias for hypocrisy was a cool move. But this business with Stephen came out of the blue. No one could have foreseen how Saul would turn it to his advantage against the church. The way things are going, I reckon that in a couple more days the only believers left in Jerusalem will be the apostles.”
“Let me show you something,” said Archelon, dragging his friend into the kitchen. He walked over to the pot of rock salt that the maid-servant Rhoda used for preserving meat and he picked up a handful. “This works better when the salt’s a bit finer,” he explained, crushing the crystals to powder in his powerful grip.”
“I don’t understand what you-”
“Just hush a moment.” Taking a half-filled bowl of water, he allowed a trickle of salt to fall. “Now what do you see?”
“The salt has dissolved.”
“There’s not enough water for all the salt to dissolve. A tiny amount is settling on to the bottom of the bowl.”
“Exactly,” agreed Archelon, releasing the rest of the powder. “And now?”
“The salt’s just sitting there doing nothing. But I don’t see what-”
“This, my friend, is a picture of the church in Jerusalem. The Lamb told them to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, didn’t he? Well, it’s been three years now and they’re still sitting here. A few of the villages in Judea have heard the message but the rest of the country - let alone the world - is still bound by sin’s corruption. Salt is no good if it all stays in one place. It has to be sprinkled, to be scattered, if it’s to be effective.”
“And you think that’s why the Spook told us to stand down?”
“I know it. It’s horrendous to watch but he’s making sure that God’s holy salt gets out to where it’s most needed. The Spirit – there’s no way I’m calling him the Spook – knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Hephistames thought about this for a moment, then sighed and slumped down on to a nearby stool. “I suppose I ought to send him an apology, shouldn’t I?”
“Might be a good idea,” agreed his companion. “But in the meantime you need to pack your things. Your marching orders have arrived. Michael wants you in Samaria before the day is out. Seems that Philip the evangelist could do with a little help against the legions of hell…”
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