War In Heaven

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Anna Marthalow

Anna Marthalow

“Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae,et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum,qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine,passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus,descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Patris omnipotentis,inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos.Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, sanctorum communionem,remissionem peccatorum,carnis resurrectionem,vitam aeternam. Amen”

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell on the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty: from thence, He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

Off my knees, I rise. My Regis wings stretch and flap, assisting in balance before tucking their bulky bundle into my back and resting the silk of their quills. I pull at the corset, fixing its uncomfortable position against the weight of my breasts and adjust the wide belt at my waist to ease the pressure against my hips. With a quick glance at my knees, I dust the dirt from my breeches, my fingers fluttering over the tip of a hidden blade buried in the length of my knee-high boot. I shove it further into its confines and swing around.

All whispering and murmuring ceases and wide eyes full of fear and apprehension await my movement. The line of yazatas, pathetic, young Souls stands shoulder-to-shoulder. They seek comfort from one another, undecided if the rumors of my attitude are fabrications or actualities. A month they’ve spent together in Arch Remeil’s classroom becoming fast friends under his sweet and loving support.

Now it’s time they learn how the real world works.

My boots strike the sidewalk, hard and firm and every so often, I notice one of them jump in terror. I do not smile despite the enjoyment it brings me. Such pathetic little beings will never witness an emotion on my face other than distaste and hostility.

With a high chin, I raise my voice, “Welcome to class. I am Anna Martholow, your mentor for the remaining six weeks. You are here because you are weak in faith. This seminar is to strengthen your bond with God and by the end, you will gain your Angel status, or you will become a deplorable human once more. It all depends on how well you listen.” I snap in front of a woman. “What is your name?”

She whips her head around from her companion, shrinking in on herself. “Melody, ma’am.”

“You will refer to me as Donna Anna.” Slapping my boot down, I strut onward, stretching out my wing and yanking it back in. “You have one simple task as Yazatas. Collect Souls. Can anyone here name the types of Souls?”

A quick hand rises.

“Si, state your name.”

“Besia, Donna Anna. There are four different kinds of Light: Fledgling, Pure, Scarred, and Binary.”

“Bravo. If you come upon a Scarred Soul, you are to leave them to me, do you understand? Scarred Souls are dangerous and will only seek to harm you. Why are Scarred Souls dangerous?”

They shift in uncertainty and I am tired of waiting. “Scarred Souls are murderers, killers, rapists. In their living lives, they commited multiple Sins that mutate their Soul. Because of this mutation, they are angry, violent, and cruel.” My words frighten them and perhaps it will be enough to keep them from approaching such a beast. “Now, the entirety of Central Park is yours. The Holy Merci, the Heavenly Court, has this area completely quarantined. You will not step one foot outside it. I don’t care if you used to live five blocks away, you are dead now and your family is God.”

They mumble to themselves unhappily.

I point toward the exit, “Out there, Fallen will snag your Soul and damn you to the eternal fires of Sheol. Out there, every portion of land has a claim and no one is your friend. Every creature, Fallen and Void alike want your Light.”

Uneasily and so pathetically fearful, a psycho-pomp raises a quivering hand. It’s galling, I don’t remember asking a question that required them to answer.

I point to him and he picks at his white t-shirt grasping for courage. “Arch Remeil says-”

“Your name, bambino.”

“Abhay, ma’am. I mean, Donna Anna.” He clears his throat. “Arch Remeil says that, that Fallen are just like us. That they are our friends.” He glances at his comrades. “They don’t seem so bad.”

“And you do not seem like a dim-witted fool, Abhay. Perhaps we see what we want to see.” Giggles and shoves interrupt and a quick blush falls over his features as he sinks back into the crowd.

I expand my voice over their jests, “Fallen breathe in the Darkness. Make no mistake they will wrap their greedy little fingers around you and mutate your Soul. Earth isn’t what you think it is. There are hundreds of factions and clans, Fallen and Angel alike battling for dominance and supremacy.”

The same neophyte raises his hand, “But Arch Remeil says--”

“A Heaven Patron who knows naught of Earth politics, yes, let’s hear it, what does the revered Arch have to say?” My wings flap and fluster. “There is a difference between Heaven and Earth, understand that quickly. You would not trust a seaman to plow a field, do not expect an Angel of Heaven to grasp Earth’s labor. Hear me, trust in me. I know the ways of both worlds. Treat Earth as the war zone it is and you shall live to see your wings.”

With no more interruptions, I proceed to team them up. Being as this is the night class, I make parties of four instead of two. It is a superstition that evil comes with the setting sun yet even as I acknowledge this, my muscles tense as I watch the sky darken. The lustrous colors of pinks and yellows fade to purple and hues of dark blue. Stars poke through the clouds, glittering in greeting. Their presence is a comfort.

It has been so long since I’ve seen a star.

I am not a nostalgic person and I shove my eyes away full of chastisement.

I observe as they scatter through the pathways. Twenty students and perhaps two of them will become Angels when this class is finished. It is a sad percentage but their conviction is fragile for a reason.

This class aids wandering fledgling Souls more than it does assist them to become Angels. Someone has to bring the meandering pieces of Light to Heaven and Angels have other things to do. It is wise to make less important creatures do such mundane tasks.

Two Yazatas lingers near a human picnic, leaning over them and listen to their conversation. They giggle and poke fun at the ignorance. We are invisible and for them, it is a game but I am less humored by their entertainment.

Within moments, they feel the heavy weight of my glare and push each other in opposite directions before rushing off to do their work.

“Miss Anna.”

From the recesses of the trees, Arch Remeil steps toward me. A soft smile plays on his lips. Brunette hair dangles in front of his face and it bounces with every step he takes. Though I am not privy to his perfection, there are plenty of girls in the dorms of Second Heaven who yak about his pristine exterior and his appealing temperament.

“How does it feel to be back?”

I scoff, pulling at my uniform with tight fingers. It is a relief however to revert to Italian now that there is someone to understand me. “Do not patronize me.”

“It is a sincere enquire.”

As he stands beside me, his long brown robes brush against my boot. I curl my lip in disdain but refuse to move. As a man of his station, he degrades himself by wearing such an outfit. I am required to bow but I snub the very idea of showing an ounce of reverence to a man that dresses as a common house servant. Again, the women think of his choice of attire as a sign of his saintliness.

He observes the horizon. “This wondrous sight, there is nothing like it. If Heaven were as picturesque, there would be no cause to leave it. How you managed so long without it, I could not sustain as you. Your strength is inspiring.”

“Is it?” I nip. “I do not believe I had a choice for I was in prison for the last fifty years of my life. What is inspiring, may I ask?”

Remeil drops his head, “I was simply encouraging, Miss Anna.”

“I do not need fictitious verses. I was in prison because the pious Merci concluded an erroneous decision that I maliciously killed a Fallen. I did not go away on some virtuous cruise so do not treat me as if you have any respect for me.”

He turns his blue gaze upon me, hoping to butter me up with a well-trained smile, “Can we try to be civil with each other?”


Disappointment shines in his eyes.

I watch the sky, saddened that for fifty years I’ve not seen it. “I should have your respect. For six hundred years, I worked my way from the bottom of Heaven’s pecking order. I started out in a silly little clan, taking orders from a nonentity. On my own, I made it into the Ruling. I worked in the Law division and from there, I went from one pointless career to another until I landed an occupation as a mentor in your department. Yet you look down on me. Have I not done enough?”

“Miss Anna--”

“I am careless, mind you. How you feel or what you think makes no difference to me. You, sir, are only a stepping stone and I will use you until I make it further.”

Contentment rests on his lips but I believe I have ruined any speech he desired to say. He plays with the necklaces at his neck, fingering the rubies that harness the weight of his glorious Soul. My pride swells every minute he is silent.

“Well, I simply came to make sure that the class is going well. I didn’t mean to cause upset. Give my best to your Soul Mate. I would very much like to see him soon. It’s been too long.”

Arch Remeil leaves me with a foul bitterness in my mouth. Not only does he dredge up memories from the past but he dares mention my Soul Mate.

Is that why he pretends to be cordial?

Staring out, I see the skyline of Manhattan and every thought I try to suppress gathers in the pit of my stomach and forms a ball of disgust and loss.

The world changed and altered while I was away. Time continued to advance but I, I remained stagnant. Resentment curls my lips, replaying the two years of trail proceedings and the dozens of circumstantial accounts. I see Arch Sariel sit upon the dais, gazing down his fat nose judging the scars on my Soul. He heeded no witness. He considered no evidence. The three scars that mar my Light were enough to convict me of murder.

Murder of a Fallen, what a ridiculous notion. To consider that Fallen have a Soul in which I am capable of unlawfully taking is preposterous. The moment they Fell from God’s Heaven, they ceased being. I have every right to rid the world of their presence. They are of the Darkness. Is it not our duty as Father’s Angels, to extinguish as much of the creeping obscurity as possible?

Fallen deserve to be eradicated. If the moral Merci cannot comprehend that, then it is no wonder the Darkness grows. I will not sit back and watch as these superior beings allow Father’s precious world to be overgrown with poisonous weeds.

Walking along the cement, I ignore human civilization as the irritating flies that they are. Six hundred years ago was the last time I lived a human life and I try well to forget it. I evolved. The family I had, the children, the grandchildren, they are nothing more than bits of memories better forgotten. They don’t matter. It’s this life I live, this life as Anna Martholow that matters and I will make sure it has a purpose.

I locate one set of yazatas successfully tracking a wandering Soul and guide it into the Dust, returning to First Heaven. Central park is full of Fledglings and though nighttime settles on the river, flakes of Light buzz around the campus. They are senseless orbs, lost amongst the Earth unsure where to go and why. Central Park is a beacon, one built by the Merci, to attract these flies to its inviting center. This makes our job much easier.

However, because of this, Fallen attempt to steal inside the walls to snag Light as well. They have the same occupation as us but where we are gathering Light for Heaven, they are pilfering Light for Sheol.

My gaze narrows as I find Besia and his partners surrounding a buzzing orb. The mutilating scars are obvious to me but to Yazatas they wouldn’t be able to see such blatant marks. The Scarred Soul darts around in angry bouts, attempting to strike them but without arms, without legs, it’s limited to much.

I step forward and the Scarred Soul shrinks instantly. “How can you tell the difference between a Scarred Soul and a Fledgling?”

Besia raises his hand. “A fledgling is docile and obedient in nature. A Scarred Soul will be visibly enraged.”

“I thought I told you to leave Scarred Souls to me.”

“I tried to tell them, Donna Anna.”

My wings fluff and shake but I settle them, stepping along the line, looking down at the Soul cowering underneath the weight of my Light. “Do you know why it quivers now? Because evil, a faceless entity, acknowledges the presence of the Lord. God is in me as He is in each of you. If you grasp this concept, your sins can be overcome. Gaining Angel status is about understanding the rightful views of our world. Connect with your faith and you will find yourself in Heaven.”

Clapping sounds behind me. My wing pulls down as I look over my shoulder.

Fallen Cleophas stands in the light of the lamp above us. He removes the leash from his armpit and holds on tight as his hell wolves rise to their feet and stretch the metal chain, baring their fangs.

“Such conviction, Anna.” He reveals his teeth, curling his lips in distaste.

“Donna Anna?” My students shrink behind, fearing the sight of Cleophas’ Soul. I wonder what they see. A Fallen Soul is a disgusting, foul image to me but I have a much better perception then them.

The canines bark sharp and black droll spatters on the ground. I stop myself from stepping backward. I will not reveal fear in the presence of my subordinates.

Cleophas smirks humorously, “‘Your sins can be overcome’, huh? Is that what they tell you?” He chuckles, the spider tattoo at his eye crinkling in his false mirth. “Tell me, Anna, does knowing God erase those scars on your Soul?”

“You know the rules, Cleophas. Whoever makes it to the Soul first gets to keep it.”

His eyes linger on me a moment before drifting to the vermin squatting in the shadow. He sees the hundreds of fresh scars pouring with pus just as well as I. “That soul is a killer. It belongs to Lucius.”

My wings spread wide, releasing a portion of my light, “You dare speak that vile name to me.”

He smirks, proud that he managed to affect me. “I dare.” His wolves bark violently, fighting the chain. They feed off his temper. At any other moment, I would worry. They have chased me before as much as it hurts my pride to admit that. Cleophas shakes his head, slowly, disappointment knitting his brow, “They let you out? That’s funny. I guess murdering a Fallen doesn’t mean much nowadays.”

I calmly fold each wing back into its rightful place, “I paid my time for your clan mate, Cleophas. Clan Tiya has gotten its vengeance. Fifty years of my life for scum.” I step forward, daring him to unleash his wolves in front of so many witnesses. “But do not foolishly believe I will waste another moment to the likes of you.”

His gaze swims over my wards. Disappointment comes when surrender is inevitable. He snaps his fingers and his dogs whimper, lying down upon the ground like two innocent puppies. “One day, Anna, it will just be me and you. You will find not even your God will have mercy.”

“My faith outweighs your ego, demonio.”

He swings away and disappears into the trees. I stand in wait, searching for a sign of betrayal or plot to catch me off guard. I am not naïve to think he simply abandoned me. He desires revenge and Fallen are very good at such a game.

“Donna Anna?”

I look around, taken aback that my students loiter. I quickly regain my composure. “Go report the soul to Arch Remeil. Say nothing of what you saw here.”

Rage keeps me still. If I could hasten behind him, yank my dagger from my boot and slip it into his heart, I would do so with pleasantry. I imagine his surprise and I would soak in victory.

It is impossible for me to step into Sheol just as it’s not plausible for any of them to make way into our First Heaven. But what if I could?

I wonder has any Angel ever attempted entering Sheol?

I take a step forward.

If I could get into their Dust then I can get into Hell itself. If I could get there, I could find Satan.

Imagine God’s face the day I place the Devil’s head at his feet. Honor and reverence would come in hordes. They would shout my name from the highest levels of Heaven and all the Elders, Seraphim and Cherubs, would sing in chorus the greatness of my fortitude.

I could change the world.

Yazatas- AKA physcopomps- entities with the responsibility to escort souls to Heaven.
Merci- (Mer-sigh) Imperial Court of Heaven.
Arch Remeil - Archangel of Hope and Righteousness, overseer of Souls entering Heaven.
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