To Hell for the Company
For a brief
moment, the world was nothing but an explosion of light and colours,
of edgeless forms and streaks. Then it slowly all became clearer as
Hael fully materialized on the earthly plane. The light became
dimmer, the colours less abstract. A wide field opened in front of
the young angel, firm, fertile earth, grass of a healthy green, large
trees that rose up from the ground and into the sky. A rather large
pine forest lied a mile to the north from him. In the far distance
behind the forest, mighty mountains protruded from the earth, their
tips vanishing above the clouds.
Eagerly, the young angel tasted Earth's air. It was so different from the one in the Cities of Heaven. Not as sterile or overly clean...
The angel closed his eyes and embraced the fresh breeze going through his blond hair, felt how his wings almost spread on their own as they caught the wind in their feathers.
Then he shook his head and his eyes flung open. He couldn't waste any more time. He had a mission to fulfil.
With a flap of his wings he catapulted himself into the air, higher and higher until even the mighty trees beneath him seemed no bigger than pinheads.
“Scout the area. Search for any tactical positions, any possible traps or enemy patrols. Do not engage them, but return immediately,” he recalled his captain's orders. “You're not ready yet to face a demon in open combat.”
Hael felt a sting in his chest. That last comment by his captain had struck him harder than he expected. Angels were born warriors, being told that one was not ready for a real battle was like calling them a disgrace.
And he remembered exactly how his captain even refused to look at him when giving him these orders.
He had eagerly awaited the day he would be deployed to the Earth, for his first battle, the first demon head severed by his blade...and here he was, scouting, while his brothers and sisters fought for honour and glory...
he shook his head.
No, even if he was only a mere scout, he would still finish his mission and earn himself at least a little bit of honour amongst the other angels for securing the area. He dove towards the earth once again, towards the huge pine forest that covered a large part of the plane and gently landed on the tip of one of the large trees. From here he could overlook almost the entire valley. The young angel folded his wings and crouched down, then let his eyes wander over the forest. So far, nothing of interest. Only dark-green treetops that moved slightly in the wind.
was supposed to take place here tomorrow. Their agents had reported a
great stir going through hell's forces. The infernal forges were
roaring and steaming, spewing out armour, blades, great war machines
and other tools of destruction for the demons to arm themselves with.
The Council had ordered the Archons to immediately dispatch their
troops onto the mortal plane. Hael shifted his position a bit to the
right and his wings twitched nervously. He had only once seen a demon
up-close once, a long dead one to be precise. He shuddered at the
memory of the bloated up corpse, the huge, upside-down wings, the
twisted, tusked face, the overly long, scaled arms that could easily
snap him in two...
Calael frowned. Maybe that was why his captain put him on scout duty instead on the frontline. He would never admit it in front of the other angels but...he was scared of the denizens of hell. He had heard stories of them from an older angel, an old veteran named Vamadriel, who's wings were starting to loose their feathers. He had told him and the other new recruits of how he once saw an Ifrit, a humongous fire demon, rip an entire battalion of angels apart or of a group of hellhounds that decimated the squad of angels under his command behind his back. When he had turned around, all he could do was watch how the last of his soldiers disappeared into a cloud of light.
How were they even supposed to battle these creatures when they could ever so easily massacre entire battalions?
Hael fist tightened around the pine's arcs until the needles pierced his skin.
Suddenly, the young angel felt his hair starting to stand on end, along with a strange itch that crawled down his neck. It was the same feeling he got whenever one of his angelic brethren materialized near him. Instinctively, he pulled his still only half-folded wings in and made himself as small as possible, tried to hide in the pine's needles. Kind of a hopeless move, as his bright, white tunic and golden chainmail made him stick out among the green like a sore thumb. Then he realized how stupid his hiding was. If it was another one of his angelic siblings, then there was no reason to hide from them.
'But, a small voice in the back of his head reminded him, 'you were the only one send out for scouting duty. The captain would have told you beforehand if you were receiving reinforcement!'
The strange itching feeling stopped running down his neck. Whatever just arrived had now fully materialized.
Not knowing what to do, Hael remained somewhat helplessly on top of his pine. His captain told him not to engage potential enemies and instead report back immediately to him...but how could he be sure that whoever just appeared was really an enemy?
'...Guide me, O Creator...!', he send a plead towards the heavens, then he flapped his wings and slowly glided towards the ground.
here, the forest was much darker and less inviting. The sun only
barely managed to light up a few spots here and there, dousing the
woods in an eerie twilight. The young angel drew his blade, a blade
of perhaps two feet in length, more a long knife than a proper sword,
and it lit up with holy light. He held it up his sword like a torch
and turned, trying to gain a better view of his surroundings. He
sniffed the air and scowled, as a strange smell penetrated his nose.
Foul, kinda like rotten eggs. Sulfur.
Hael turned around once more and froze in horror as he spotted the demon.
He was over two metres tall, lean, with ash-coloured skin that was streaked by strange, golden gleaming tattoos or runes that crawled over the creatures left arm, chest and part of it's back. Horns as long as Hael's lower arm grew out of the sides of the humanoid head, continuing in a row of smaller spikes that sprouted from the demon's neck and down his back. A mane of filthy, black hair fell into the demon's face and down to it's waist. A crooked smile adorned the demon's face, that showed far too many strong, canine teeth for the angel's taste.
For a small moment, that to Hael felt like an eternity, the two beings stared at each other without uttering a single word. Blue, panicked eyes met green, slitted ones. Hael began to shiver, he gnashed his teeth together and raised his blade a bit further.
Hael blinked. Did that demon just...talk? The angelic scout was so confused that all he replied with was an unintelligent: “...Buh?”
“You just gonna stand there wavin' that pocket knife 'round like a crazed bloody windmill, or ya gonna introduce yerself?” the demon asked mockingly. His voice was raspy and deep, yet strangely soothing.
Hael just stared at the demon, his perplexity growing with every second.
“Y-you're...you're a demon!”
The hellspawn's eyes widened for a split-second.
“Me? Ya mean I'm in fact not a fair maiden strollin' through the bloody woods with a song on my cherry lips?”
Hael's brows furrowed in utter confusion and he actually lowered his sword for a moment.
“No, that would be ridiculous, you're a...”
His sword immediately snapped back up again.
“YOU'RE A DEMON!”
“No shit, Sherlock, whatever gave ya that idea?” the demon replied dryly and closed his eyes.
Hael's mind was racing. A demon, and no doubt a powerful one, was sitting five, maybe eight metres away from him, his only defence was his, admittedly, quite puny blade and there was no way he could contact his captain or any of his brethren fast enough before the demon would have made lunch out of him. Hael's knees started to shake, but he kept his sword pointed at the demon, who eventually opened his eyes again and gave him an annoyed glance..
“Will ya get that bloody toothpick outta my face?! Pointin' a sword is by no means 'n icebreaker,” he sneered and waved one claw lazily in Hael's direction.
“Why, so you can kill me, fiend?!”, the young angel squeaked, to his own embarrassment.
The demon let out a barking laugh.
“What's so funny, blasphemer?!” Hael yelled. At least his voice wasn't breaking anymore.
“If I wanted t'kill ya, Feathers, I would've plucked ya outta that pine the moment I materialized here.”
Whatever had remained of Hael's self-esteem was now shattered into tiny bits. With a clump in his throat, the young angel lowered his sword.
“See? Was that so hard?”
“What are you doing here, hellspawn?” the angel asked coldly.
The demon made a wide gesture towards the forest around the two.
“Scoutin' the terrain. Would be a fool's move t'not know the ground ye'll be fighting on, eh?”
Hael just nodded hypnotically.
“Well?” the demon asked again.
The demon rolled his eyes.
“Yer name, Feathers. It's not polite pointin' swords at each other without at least tellin' who y'are.”
Now Hael was just one big angelic ball of confusion. The other angels had told him repeatedly that demons were destructive, monstrous, feral beasts that would stop at nothing to devour his body and soul...and right now, one of them was, more or less, politely asking him for his name.
The poor angel had no idea what to do but to answer the demon's question:
The demon's left eyebrow arched.
“...Hael? 's a girl's name,” he sneered.
“No it isn't!” the angel protested, his hands twitching back to the hilt of his sword.
“Totally is,” the demon nodded, obviously amused by the young angel's burst of anger.
“So what's your name then?!”, Hael asked provokingly.
The demon tilted his head and seemed lost in thought for a minute.
“Shammer,” he finally said. Now it was Hael's turn to arc his eyebrow.
not even a real name!”, he protested. The demon gave him another
“It's a nickname, so, counts,” he shrugged. “Shamming's what I like t'do, so the other demons call me Shammer. There're worse nicks.”
And with that he closed his eyes again and folded his claws behind his head.
“Don't cha have some scoutin' t'do?”, he sneered at the angel.
Hael flinched. He had completely forgotten his objective, then he frowned once again.
“...You're...just going to let me go like that? You're not going to eat me or something?”
“Don't get yer wings tied'n a knot, Feathers. You're far to skinny to eat. Now run along, nothin' t'see here, just a demon who wants some bloody sleep already.”
“Then...um...I guess I'll just go...scouting, things, stuff,” Hael stuttered awkwardly and waved aimlessly with one hand behind him.
“Ye do that,” Shammer muttered.
When Hael returned from scouting the area around the forest, Shammer was still sitting underneath his tree, only this time with a large wooden barrel and a metal jug filled with a steaming, dark liquid.
“...You're still here?” Hael said, slowly flapping a few metres above the ground.
“Ey, I did my share of scoutin' long ago,” the demon shrugged and took a long drink.
“...Then why are you still here?”
“Enjoyin' the scenery? Really, coulda ask ye the same thing, Feathers,” the demon sneered.
Hael continued levitating in the air, unsure what to do. Once again, the demon took any decisions out of the angel's hands, as he pulled a second tin cup out, filled it with liquid from the barrel, then held it towards the angel.
“Care fer a sip?”
The angel stared at the cup as if it was a highly poisonous snake.
“C'mon, I didn't put any funny stuff init,” the demon rolled his eyes and held the cup a bit higher.
Reluctantly the angel flew a step closer and reached out for the tin cup, looked down at it for another moment.
“I really shouldn't...,” he began, but was cut off by Shammer immediately.
already conversing with a demon which would make th'other
featherheads cut yer wings off if'ey found out, what big difference
is sharing a sip with'im gonna make then?” Shammer laughed and
refilled his own jug again.
Hael stared down at the steaming liquid. What was he doing here? Why was he floating just metres away from his mortal enemy, talking to him, accepting drinks from him, if he should actually raise his sword and challenge him to combat, or at least flee as fast as possible?
The demon casually took another sip from his own jug, but his snake-like eyes were constantly fixed on the young angel.
At last, Hael's curiosity won over his fear and he drank a small bit of the steaming liquid. Tears immediately started to form in his eyes as the demonic drink burned his tongue and throat, he coughed and almost lost grip of his jug. The demon watched him bemused.
“W-what's inside of this infernal beverage?!” Hael choked.
“Ya know, there once happened t'be a human town just a few miles south from'ere,” Shammer began to explain cheerily. Hael's eyes widened.
“Y-y-ou b-brew this from human souls?”
A dark smirk appeared on the demon's face. Hael dropped his jug and spit out whatever of the drink was still in his mouth.
“A'M JUST SCREWIN' WITH YA, FEATHERS!” Shammer snorted with laughter. “How green can ya possibly be?”
“T-then it's not made from any m-mortal...”
“Of course not, Featherhead! Fer a bein' of divine origin ye know not bleedin' much about souls, d'ya? Nothin' but normal alcohol, if lot's of it, 'n besides, brewin' things out of mortal flesh's not exactly makes any sort o'good ale..”
Slowly, the burning in Hael's throat ceased. The demon patted the barrel besides him.
“Want 'nother one?”
For a moment, Hael was silent. Then he picked up his jug from the ground and held it towards the demon.
“Called it,” Shammer grinned and poured him a cup.
It wasn't long until both the angel and the demon were lying in the grass and stared upwards at the slowly moving leafs of the treetops. The barrel between them had been almost emptied by the two and Hael's vision was already starting to blur and become sludgy. Shammer then and then let out a string of giggles.
“What is this...feeling?” the angel groaned and pressed one palm against his forehead. “It...it's as if somebody just hit me over the head with a club...”
The demon let out a barking rasp of a laugh.
“Yer drunk, Feathers. And tha' after jus' three jugs of ale.”
Hael closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them again. He tried sitting up straight, but the world turned upside down and he instead tumbled to the side again. His wings twitched slightly as he fumbled for his jug.
“'S strange isn'it`?” he mumbled and pulled himself up, using the barrel for support.
“What is, Feathers?” Shammer mumbled from the other side of the barrel.
“You know....Angel, Demon, two sides, mortal enemies 'till aaaalll of creation goes up in flames...and we're lying here drinking this...,” he stared into the insides of his jug. “Weird, human firejuice.”
“Blergh...Humans do it all the time. This lil' drink 'ere, it brings 'em together,” Shammer explained, his raspy voice slowly sounding just as slurry as Hael's. “Well...along with all those other fancy things. Like morals. Art. Culture. Sex. Or War. Or... bloody hell, I dunno.”
why...,” Hael muttered and raised his empty cup into the air.
“Why're we jus' sitting here...and not fighting?”
“Good question, Feathers,” Shammer murmured and sat up right. “Ya see, why did ye accept me offer of a drink in th'first place?”
“Uh...,” Hale made and blinked. “I was...curious? Yo...you're the first alive demon I have ever seen.”
“'N what did they tell ya 'bout our kind, hm? Th'other Featherheads, I mean.”
intoxicated mind went back and conjured up slightly blurred images of
a time where it hadn't been influenced by a gallon of alcohol.
“Demons are the spawn of hell, the eternal enemy of the Light, Heaven and the Almighty Himself. They are callous, destructive and rotten to the very core,” Hael repeated what his mentors had hammered into his and other young angels heads, when they just had existed for a mortal year in the heavens. “Most of them are nothing but brute muscle and easy to trick, a-...”
“Y'know what the humans call that sorta thing?” Shammer interrupted and leaned towards Hael with a conspiratorial look in his eyes. “Prejudice and Racism.”
He snickered and took another large sip of his mead. Hael's eyebrows furrowed.
“Well, I'm a demon, see? Fer reference, I ne'er attacked, nor did anythin' to the pretty trees around me..”
He stopped for a second and took a look around.
“...They really're pretty bleedin' pretty though. But anyway, so, demons are s'pposed t'be, like, giant stupid war machines, right? Now look a'me.”
He made a weird flail with his arm towards himself and spilled half of his drink over the grass.
“Here I sit, makin' sophisticated drunken banter with my mortal enemy, a Featherhead from Cloudytown. I'm the strikin' image against everythin' yer fellow pigeonheads described. Defyin' the silly stereotype, Feathers.”
“But you're j-just one. Just one demon I talked with. W-who says the next one won't rip my head off?” Hael slurred and peaked into the barrel's hole, searching for more of the burning, yet so delicious ale.
“Because it's in our nature,” Shammer calmly answered.
“Y-you just said that was a silly stereotype!” Hael protested and jabbed his finger against the demon's face, or at least, where he thought it was, as his finger pointed at least two feet to the right of Shammer's actual forehead.
“Uh, remember my name? Shammer. I sham. I lie. 's what I do,” the demon snarked.
“...Are you going to rip off my head then?”
“Eh, Nah. Why waste good company?”
The angel still shifted a feet away from the demon who didn't notice, or just didn't care.
“See...,” Shammer started again. “Angels and Demons, are at war because of what? Because a certain dude downstairs,” he knocked on the ground, “Got send downstairs and 'cause he started this whole rebellion, then he tried t'mock up Big Daddies playground, his siblings get pissy 'n start pissing on him, he pisses back, and we're the piss he sends at you.”
He stopped to glance at Hael.
“You get what I mean?”
Hael blinked, then uttered a long: “...Yes?”
“Great, basically, we're all just pawns in a war between two big idiots. Now, to mobilize those pawns, they need t'spread some nasty rumours about each other, right? Pigeonheads are snotty, fanatical idiots (which they are) and we demons are brutal monsters of death and destruction that cannae think straight e'en once. So we all hate each other because the big guys tell us to and...”
Shammer broke off and made a face.
“Sheesh, I ain't makin' sense. Fuck it, too much alcohol.”
The young angel made a grumbling sound.
“Point is,” Shammer slurred and held one clawed finger upwards, “there're many a demon who're jus' bleedin' tired of all the fightin' simply 'cuz they're expected t'be evil 'n destructive 'n shit. Like moi. And that's why I kept ye alive.”
“S-so...good, evil and everything, that's all just...a lie?” the angel muttered.
“A huuuuuuuuge lie. None offus are born evil or good. Ye featherheads, ye're declared the good guys 'cuz yer all pretty, gold-winged and have the great creator on yer side who's worshipped by everyone. 'N we demons? We're assumed t'be evil only 'cuz we've got horns, scales, fire and 're forced t'live in the infernal basement. But really, without us, this whole balance of the universe thingie wouldn't work at all.
“Lemme tell ya somethin' Feathers,” the demon said, his voice suddenly sounding sober and clear again.
“Without the big guys tellin' us to cleave each others heads in, 'm pretty sure we wouldn't even be at war.”
The two beings lied still after that for some time, silently watched as the sun slowly began to descent behind the mountains, shedding the valley with a deep, golden-red light. A small, evening breeze created waves in the grass, made the treetops rustle. Peaceful. Beautiful.
"'S been fun talkin' to ye, Feathers. Hopefully we don't see each other 'n the battlefield tomorrow."
For a small moment, the angel looked down at the offered claw. The he extended his own hand. The demon nodded satisfied as they shook hands, a warm spark in his snake-like eyes.
"Same here," Hael smiled.
The demon took a step back. A shudder went through him as a large, upside-down pair of wings burst out of his shoulders and started to flap violently. Hael struggled to keep his feet on the ground as Shammer rose up into the air. The trees creaked and moaned as the winds caused by the mighty wings threatened to tear them out of the earth. Shammer gave one last wave with his clawed hand to Hael, then, with one last flap, the demon flew off. Hael rose into the air himself to watch how Shammer's silhouette, or rather blur, vanished behind the huge mountains that encased the valley.
A loud cry went through the demon emcampment as the familiar blur appeared on the horizon. Quickly, the infernal creatures made way as the silhouette charged down onto the ground. A loud explosion shook the entire camp as Shammer created a small crater in the earth upon landing, sending every demon that had been to slow to clear the room flying through the air.
With a small whistle on his lips Shammer shook his wings and dusted off his cloak, as a large, red-skinned titan made his way through the crowd of lesser demons and approached the edge of the crater. Four massive wings were folded on his broad back and black, writhing symbols were burned into his torso and arms. He had a small, disapproving scowl on his face as he knelt down besides the crater.
"You left us greatly worried," he scolded Shammer, as the latter climbed out of the crater. "Flying out into enemy territory like that could've gotten you killed, mylord."
"Relax, Astoroth," Shammer waved off the demon general's well-ment carping. "I needed a moment away from the commanding table. Get my head clear. Besides..."
He held up his hand, revealing a small, white feather. Astoroth sniffed, and his eyes widened slightly.
"Angel feathers...," he hissed with glee. "Have you found a scout, Lord Belial? Killed him? Tortured him for information?"
Belial shook his head and a small smile appeared on the demon lord's face.
"Much better. I made friends with him."