Michael- Angel of War, 2000 years old, youngest, commander of the Army of God
Gabriel-(Gabby) Angel of Communication, moves faster than the speed of light.
Raphael- Angel of Health, Creator and Leader of the Apothecary
Remiel- Angel of Hope, guides Souls of faithful to Heaven
Sariel- Angel of Law, Supreme Judge of the Merci
Zadkiel- Angel of Loss, councils Angels through times of peril
Uriel- Angel of Unity-Ruler of the Arch Family, Eldest
Unavoidable, I sit in the expensive grand hall of Miriam’s Parthenon. Limestone makes up its foundation and the monstrous columns that sketch the outer layer of the room. There are dozens of mammoth pillars stretching toward the ceiling, which is unreachable by any foot ladder or lift. I sometimes forget how they constructed this immaculate building so astounded am I by its fortitude and then I peer out across the elongated, sleek table in front of me meeting its constructors and I lose all doubt of its impossibility.
Despite the reason for the gathering, I am humbled to find myself in the attendance of the Arch Family.
I observe their sagacious discussion with a serene bliss. After they were derailed by the encroaching news of God’s death, they did not wail in grief or falter in confusion. The seven of them acted with momentum and encouragement, quickly moving on to discuss how to strengthen the relationships between Elder and Newborn as a way to supplement God’s absence. There has always been a flawed bond within each category. Elders behave with sonority and look down upon their decedents. And Newborns tend to dislike and idealize those with extreme power and rank. In Heaven, it has become so translucent that Elders do not associate with Newborns at all.
The conversation however meets a stalemate. The Arch Family are mostly Elders or are treated as such. They do not understand the upsets of Newborns and can only agree to the inclinations of Elders. I smile adoringly, hiding my lips behind fingertips.
War becomes their next topic.
Sariel, dressed in the fine tailored bright red robes of the Merci hands documents to a servant who hastens to pass it out. I barely glance at it. I’ve already received it.
He stands, fixing the assorted gold necklaces interlacing each other at his chest. His rings and bracelets glitter and express his superior rank as the Arch Angel of Law and the Supreme Judge of the Merci. Sariel elucidates to his siblings about the swelling figures in Sheol. The looming war is steadily approaching.
If Tymician were alive, would we even be having this conversation? He has been Earth’s protector since the beginning of time. Worries of any foul play from Hell were swiftly eradicated under his reign. Yet he dies and there is not a single eulogy in his absence. How dreadful no one truly understood the sacrifices he had made. It conveys to me that there isn’t one amongst them that comprehends what Lucius martyred. I grieve, it seems, alone.
My eyes flicker and meet seven pairs of crystal blues scrutinizing my momentary absence of thought.
I adjust the cuff of my sleeve, “Please repeat the question.”
Uriel aggravatingly flickers out thick wenti wings over the back of his chair. With any movement, the tiny bells entwined on the tips of his black braids chime and he sighs with blatant upset, resting a sausage-sized finger against his temple. “Please pay attention. We have a limited time to gather here and we are almost at an end.”
As the forerunner of the Arch Family and the Arch of Unity, Uriel bats a hand to his brother, ordering him to continue.
“The Prophets, your majesty. We need your signature in order to move forward with the project to procure their Souls.”
Remeil as the Arch of Hope understands my impertinence to delay and interjects, “Excuse me, but is it really necessary to subject the humans to our war?”
Sariel points a bejeweled finger on the sheet, “You have in front of you the numbers of Lucius’ army. It outnumbers Fallen 1 to 5. What other choice do we have?”
He smiles warmly at his sibling as he always tends to do when faced with opposition. Remeil is the most temperate of Angels and it shines here in his reply, “It is well and good, Sariel, that your brother Michael mitigates the Imperial Army.”
“You expect Angels to battle Darkness?”
Attention spans to the ever quiet and anti-social Michael sitting at the opposite end of this lengthy slab. His wings twitter and his eyes flicker back and forth among his siblings in fervent distress, licking his lips, unsure if he should speak or keep quiet. Even under the table and from a distance, I can see the jiggling of his leg.
Noticing he will receive no aid, Remeil quickly continues, “It is I that flitters back and forth from Heaven and Earth every day. I may not be as old as brother Uriel or you Sariel but I am most knowledgeable about our ancestor humans and I know their fortitude. They will win your war, of that I have no doubt but too many will die. What is left over of the world will be chaos. Religions will shatter. Foundations of civilizations will ruin. This will end the Earth as we know it. I ask you not to risk it.”
“And if we don’t? Lucius will reign and the Earth will be lost. It is not my war as you kindly state. I don’t think you yet realize the severity of the situation. We are talking about total annihilation of the human race. They have a right to fight for their home. I do not mean to deny them.”
Remeil has no reply and though I wish most abundantly to know what he thinks I cannot reach his mind. As all the Arch members, they are well trained to confine their thoughts tightly.
Raphael leans forward, resting his long arms on the limestone. “If we awaken the Prophets, who will protect them? Lucius will take heed of our actions. All the fouls of Darkness will come for them.”
Sariel answers readily, “The Gloria Patri.”
“And they have time for such ventures? They search for the three most notorious villains currently placing Earth in danger. Is it wise to steal them away from such an occupation?”
“There are a hundred and fifty soldiers in the Gloria Patri. They are kings and queens, conquerors and gladiators of superior birth. They all have one, two, or three donated Souls apiece. They are extremely competent in their vocation and can easily babysit a couple of humans.”
“I was with Ariel the day she created the faction. I watched her rise as the future idol and take back the lands, which the Fallen were greedily snatching away. I am aware of their capabilities. What I mean to say is, do we risk their essential occupation to be placed on the backburner simply for your personal use?”
Uriel becomes swiftly exasperated by their banter, “Enough.”
“No, I am curious.” Sariel pushes. “Is it not my right as the Supreme Judge of the Merci to use the Gloria Patri as I see fit? You insult me to insinuate that I use them for personal reasons when the reasons are to protect and procure holy Souls. What personal gain can I gather from this?”
Raphael sits back and the silence stretches.
Remeil interrupts. “Both of you have valid concerns. If we include the human race, we will destroy religions and there will be backlash. It will alter the world. But if we do not, if Angels attempt to combat the Darkness with such little force, Lucius might win and the Earth will be lost. This is not a decision to be made lightly.”
Sariel cuts in, “And do not forget as Ruler of the Merci, I rule them, they are mine. You, a healer, who has no experience of war, should keep your idealism silent when it comes to world problems.”
Raphael’s feather’s fluff at the blantant disrespect, “The use of the word ‘mine’ raises high question and one we will deal with in the future. As a healer, I know destruction, sir. And war is nothing but. I cannot understand why it is my place to remind you, the Gloria Patri belong to the Earth, not you. Unlike the pious Merci and the Ruling that dictates its own law, the Gloria Patri is a militia with a much simpler pursuit: rid the world of evil. How does this apply to ‘babysitting’ Prophets?”
Sariel annoyingly adjusts, “It will take an extreme amount of Light to open the Dust long enough and wide enough for Lucius’ army to enter Earth. Demons cannot come and go freely, why do you think he waits? If Lucius finds the Prophets before we do and bleeds them dry, he will have what he needs. Does this not qualify?”
“I have said nothing about not protecting the Prophets. I am simply stating we can find someone more appropiate.”
“I will do it.” Their attention pops in my direction and I laugh warmly, greeting their surprise with eagerness. “You convinced me, Sariel, be proud. I will go.”
Zadkiel sits beside me and giggles, reaching out her long black fingertips and resting them on my hand, “And who will protect you?”
Protests ring aloud for several minutes and I listen to all their disheartened objections with an opened heart. I understand their dislike and their distrust for the situation but my resolve goes unchanged. I failed Lysander and his prophets because I wanted to believe that it would fix itself and my faith in mankind would heal but instead the wound only increased as each new decade unfolded.
As the discussion whines down, Uriel shuts his folder stalling all conversation and ceasing movement. “If it is all settled then, we must hasten our objectives. All Newborn Angels and those that chose not to fight must return to Heaven. Remeil, you will make the accommodations for Newborns on the First and Second floors. Raphael, you will expand the healing ward. I have no doubt there will be high casualty. Michael, as difficult as it might be to lead, you will recruit and train whoever wishes to fight. Prepare this currently useless army to destroy demons. And, lastly, as news of God’s impending death escalates, the masses will want to see Him and there is no doubt what kind of actions Newborns, with their low-class, uneducated minds will come up with. We will lock the doors to Level Six and direct everyone through the private passages so they may enter God’s Domain. Have the Cherubs direct traffic. Let us hope this all goes without a hitch and our life can continue as normal.” He pauses, glancing at me, particular unhappy but unwilling to share it. “As for Metatron. He will babysit our prophets until they are needed.”
Zadkiel scoffs, interrupting his speech much to his irritation. She sets her beauteous gaze across the way, meeting his glare evenly, unperturbed. “You speak as if you own the world, big brother. Have you lost your etiquettes as well as your empathy?”
Particular bored of such squabbles he replies with just as much enthusiasm as he has had through the whole meeting. “I thought we could get through this without much delay. Perhaps I was incorrect. There is plenty we could be doing as of now instead of jabbering about my imperfections.”
Gabriel is never one to stay out of an argument, especially one her older sister has begun. I hide my smile behind my hand and enjoy the family reunion. They spoke of business for so long I wondered if they forgot what it was like to simply love each other.
Gabby rushes out of her chair, relieved to finally be standing. Her bob haircut bounces with each energetic step and nothing she wears hinders her from leaning in between Uriel and Raphael to look straight at Uriel, grinning wickedly. “We should talk about you, Uriel. Everyone’s notice how distant you’ve been.”
Uriel flexes his bulky feathers, knocking Gabby’s pestering finger off one of his quills. “Fine. This is not the appropriate time but it is in fact the best moment if there is ever one.” He leans up, resting his arms on the table, folding his fingers together in front of him. His large ruby stone ring depicting his position lays pointedly on his pinkie. “I plan on stepping down as Arch.” He holds up a hand before anyone can begin an uncultivated disapproval. “I am weary, simply. The Sarim have offered me a place and I am taking it when the war is concluded.”
I am unsurprised yet his family seems stunned and dismayed. Uriel has ruled as Arch Head for over five thousand years. Such a position is strenuous. I know this more than most. I feel it wear on my own skin. But what alarms me is not his decision to leave but the choice on his retirement.
The Sarim would latch ahold of Uriel, grant him any royal lineage he desires if only to keep his Soul in their grubby hands. He does not understand how the Royal Court works. How could he know? He has never met them as I have. The Sixth Level is an entirely different world, one I’m positive he will not like.
Sariel gruffs, the fat on his chin wiggling, “You’d take it?” He glances at me, a subtle manner telling me he comprehends the dangers, “How could--”
I stop his tirade. “You deserve a rest. No one here should disagree.”
Upon my word, the Arch family alter their dirge. Each one promotes and supports his decision. “Who will take your place?” Zadkiel inquires.
He flicks a hand, unsure. “I promise you one thing. I will not allow my replacement to be any neophyte.” I notice Michael drop his head, his eyes to the hands that are sure to be in his lap, tapping on his sword. Members of the family casually look to him without saying anything but they all noticeably agree with such a declaration.
Gabby floats to Remeil’s chair where she rests her chin upon her arms and her fingertips play mindlessly with the beads of his personal, hand-crafted hollow necklaces. “We should be able to pick. It is us that must deal with incompetence.”
Michael stands swiftly, the chair’s rough scape upon the ground echoing the hollow of the room. He bows deeply and gazing upon only me with his beautiful blue eyes, he murmurs, “Excuse me, your majesty.” My brows depress in sympathy as I watch him hastily depart.
They wait until the door shuts before any response utters. Raphael is the first to break the stiffening silence with a scoff of upset. “He is easily nettled by our banter. He is a child in men’s clothing.”
I lean back, expecting my wings to buck and rear but then realize with pleasant relief I had done away with them. “You are too hard on him.”
Zadkiel bats her long dark lashes, “We are.” She admits softly yet as the Arch of Loss it is hard to be dissuaded by anything she says. Her beauty is beyond comprehension and even though she tries well to conceal it by large wool clothing and by careless tossing her hair, she is a sight to behold. “It’s for his own good we are harsh. He needs to become strong or he must give up his seat. It is the reason I allow it, otherwise, you know I wouldn’t approve.”
A knock upon the door alerts us. Fulton wearily sticks his head in but is fearful to come further. “Forgive me but you said only for urgent matters.” I wave him to continue. “Dane Monte has arrived and awaits your presence, your majesty.”
I quickly announce the importance of this meeting and the Arch Family rises to bid me farewell. I hug each of them, kissing their cheeks, loving them as my children. I know not when I will see them again. There might not be a chance for us all to gather as one before the death of God. I know they do not take this moment for granted. They are of one unity and provide the best backbone for the realm of Heaven.
Dane Monte is at the door as the Arch members strut from the room. They honor him with a simple salute, fingertips to the forehead. Gabby however, young and forgetful drops to a quick knee stumbling as the entourage behind her, shoves her onward. I chuckle hearing her curses as she stumbles on her quick toes.
Dane Monte in Heaven Hierarchy is on the highest degree, he bows to no one. Except for me, of course, but that goes without saying.
I don’t know what body Dane Monte holds on Earth, I hear it is an old man. But here, in God’s world, he takes his Soul form and it is a masculine structure of muscle. In this century, he is a Spaniard with skin tanned brilliantly. He’s recently shaved his head, leaving only a soft stubble in its wake, just as his jawline. He wears an expensive white vest, exposing his naked chest and loose linen pants.
A single tattoo intricately weaves down his left arm, thick and lacing with designs unfamiliar to me. It stops just before his wrist. I’ve asked of its purpose when I first saw it thousands of years ago. He lied to me.
Dane Monte drops upon both knees with his knuckles flat to the floor and his forehead nearly touching my toes. I reach down to help him stand and watch as he bypasses me. I have to look up at him in order to keep my eyes upon the grey blue of his orbs. He flips his attention to Remeil who chose to stay behind.
Remeil bids him greeting with his fingertips to his forehead. “Sir Dane Monte, it is good to see you. Forgive my forwardness but I must take this chance to bring up a rather distressing event. Do you have news of Anna Martholow? It is vital I speak with her.”
Dane Monte does not reply.
“Why don’t we sit down?” I interrupt sensing tension. They take my gesture and though my butt had recently gone numb, I feel rejuvenated by Dane’s presence. I wish to delve into his mind but Dane is Transcending. He would feel my presence no doubt, if he hasn’t already learned how to block me. I smile upon this. I feel as if I have gotten back my best friend. I simply stare at him. I hadn’t realized how much I missed him until now. “Isis explained that Anna was attacked?”
He nods with a tired sigh, “She was, sirs. She suffers much damage. Gula heals her.” He shifts, throwing a leg over the armrest, leaning a fingertip against his temple. His sedition presents itself with his mannerism.
Where I find only humor in Dane Monte’s style, Remeil is obviously discouraged. “Certainly my brother can repair Anna much better than that individual. Anna belongs in Heaven. The Light will benefit her.” Remeil desires Anna in Heaven for other reasons, that is a subtle message underneath his request. Dane Monte isn’t ignorant of it but he does disregard it.
“Gula is a renowned Apothecary. She is properly caring for her. Though I agree Heaven will help her Soul, Anna fears judgment. She was released from her captivity only a month ago. She returned to Earth three days prior to this event and now she frets it will be taken away. Her love of Earth is as much as her love of God.”
Remeil glances to me before he leans in whispering harshly, “I understand you fight for her because she is your Soul Mate, my lord, but please see it as I do. From the rumors I’ve gathered, she has slain another Fallen. It is my duty to detain her.”
Dane Monte is as Uriel with his torpid, nearly catatonic replies. “Rumors are now enough to detain someone in Heaven? Earth isn’t even so ruthless. I imagine Sheol works the same, however.” I crack a smile, keeping my chuckles back the moment Remeil sends a frown my way. “I will get you your proof in time, sir. She is innocent until then, is she not?”
Remeil stands roughly, his wings fluster and butt with disapproval. “She has three scars upon her Soul, my lord--”
“Is she NOT innocent, sir?” The deep baritone of his voice comes so suddenly and ends just as swiftly.
I examine Remeil. It is unlike him to act with such vehement emotion and to go against a superior Elder. There seems to be so much concern about Annamartholow. I am glad I am involved. I will be there for her trial to make sure it is a fair one.
With a soft nod and his fingertips to his forehead, he concedes, “I will await your assessment, my lord.” He leans down and kisses my cheek. I hold him close but he parts from me quick, leaving the table. “Let us pray she does not strike again in the meantime.”
With the door closed, I gaze upon my friend in soft repose, desiring to know his thoughts. Trouble knits his black brows, the action uncharacteristic. The last time I ever saw sadness riddled upon his face was the day Ema Fell. I believe it was the last creature Dane Monte had ever loved.
“It does me good to see you, Dane Monte.”
Emotion fleas as he brings his attention upon me, “Must you call me that?”
“Dane doesn’t suit you.”
He glares down at his form, “Neither does this toddler body but I adjust. I will ask you to do the same.”
His straightforward attitude is refreshing. I forgot how direct Dane is. I chuckle with adoration but he cuts me off.
“Why have you come searching for me?”
The joy I felt shatters and I lose my smile. He remains impassive as always. I gather strength from such a response. “I wanted. No. I need your input upon a very sensitive subject. Very soon we will release the information to the Elder populace but I call upon you because you and I have seen very many things together.”
“If this is about the war, then I already know of it. The signs are present. The Darkness is colder and stronger than ever before. With the Sins sudden arrival and Tymician’s disappearance, I know it is arriving. No doubt, Lucius means to kill us all. He will fail. As he always has before. Do not worry so much, Metti.”
“God is dying.” I spit out faster than intended. I bow my head to give privacy to whatever emotion he will have from my unguarded tongue.
Should I expect any words? Loneliness keeps men tight lipped and closed off. He has been that way for many years, decades, centuries. One does not change overnight. I will find no comfort from such a creature and so when he does speak, I am not thrown off guard.
“What do you want of me?” He stares at the table, seeing something I cannot. “I can neither help nor stop such a thing. It is a choice, is it not?”
He flips his blue eyes up, “So what is your purpose for me, Metti? What do you want?”
There is not a single trace of sadness. He is cold and true to the Erelim heritage. He needn’t wonder what will happen. It is simply too much to care of such problematic woes. He wants only my plans for him, what will inconvenience him. Perhaps on a different level, there is a spot inside that grieves but it is far displaced.
“We are waking the Prophets. The humans will be fighting. I think it will be wise to involve the Angels. I want you to lead them.”
Dane finds a ready fault, “Angels are not fighters. Out of the forty-five thousand on Earth already, perhaps three thousand of them will not run. They will have to be trained to fight Darkness. It will take time, time in which you indicate we do not have. I am not going to set them up for slaughter. It is the Fallen that fight as it has always been.”
“Tymician is gone.” In this moment, I realize I am not as alone in my grief as I was before. Dane and Tymician were as brothers. “It distresses me that the Three Lambs are no longer whole.”
“The Three Lambs ceased when Tymician Fell, Metti. Do not cling to such things. Ariel disappeared years ago and in all likelihood is dead. And I am unfit. Look to the present. Dion is the new leader of the Fallen. He will lead them to battle. The Angels have no place in war.”
Even as he says it, I sense his dissatisfaction. “Dion is not respected or revered. His clan fears him. You do not bring nine thousand Fallen together by fear.”
Dane’s gaze flickers madly across the table as he concentrates on the dilemma I am putting before him. He throws an idea, careless now. “Have Isis lead the Angels. She is supported by many and is involved in much.”
“Too much.” I am becoming disappointed. “I was with her earlier. I read only a fraction of her mind and there were many upsetting tidbits I need not go over with you. You know her well.” I shift uncomfortably. He is making this more difficult than it should be. “I know I am asking a lot. It may seem like too much but they need a leader. The Fallen will follow you too, Dane. You prove your worth and your strength and they will not back down.”
His finger taps his temple, “You have never known Earth, Metti. If I present myself openly, I not only put my Soul at risk but everyone that means anything to me. They will use them to get to me. Do you think I enjoy being trapped in tiny encampments? I do not hide simply from Fallen alone. Angels desire my Light as well. Such a simple decree as becoming Ruler of Earth is not realistic.”
He is supposed to be making me feel better yet he is only poking holes in my sure-fire plans.
“Will you not do this as a dying wish of God?”
His eyes fasten upon me. Anger riddles behind his blue eyes. I overstepped my bounds but I don’t see any other way. Dane fastens to his feet and paces the ground. It hurts my heart to cause him pain.
“I am ten thousand, six hundred and seven years old.” He murmurs. “I lived only one life on Earth but that life was dedicated to the human race. I witnessed their munificence, their zeal, and their heart. I have also been victim to their cruelty and callousness. I saved over two hundred thousand in my efforts to recolonize after Mother Nature’s rapid destructions. As an Angel, I’ve rescued over seventy-five hundred souls and over two thousand humans and have numerous times, saved the Earth from utter destruction. I fought against Nephilim and Demons alike, I’ve risked my soul for the Earth’s safety. I have never been selfish, my lord.”
I shift my chair to face him. “You haven’t. You are exceptional and I intend to make you my heir. I trust no one else with this task. But you are a necessary component to this war.”
Dane sits upon his chair, with his elbows resting on his knees. He looks up at me, “I am asking to be selfish.”
The desperation is blinding and to ignore it would be against my morals. I sit back in my chair rubbing my mouth with disbelief. I am flabbergasted by his denial. How can I say ‘no’ to someone that has lived his entire life if only for the good of God? “May I ask why?”
He flexes his fingers. His nervousness edges on fear. “If I told you, I knew someone close to Falling what would you do for them?”
My eyes widen and panicked I ask, “Is it Anna?”
Dane, silent only clenches his teeth as he waits for my response. .
“She won’t come here.” He protests with a calm voice. “I know she won’t. So what will you do?”
Tears threaten my gaze but I swallow attempting to keep them at bay. I feel more grief for him than I do for the Soul and that makes me feel even more terrible. “I’m sorry. But Falling is a choice, Dane.”
His head drops, his eyes upon the floor.
“If she will come here, she will be surrounded by God and by all the people that love her. And I have faith that, that will be enough.”
His dusky blue eyes lift. “And if it’s not?”
I smile for him and hope it works as well as God’s smile always works for me. “Never underestimate the power of God.”
He stands, taking his full proud height, an intimidating sight if I didn’t know him to be one of the most kind-hearted men in the universe. Dane smiles, though it is mirthless and false. “I lost Lucius and Tymician and Ema along with so many others, my lord, when the power of God failed.”
My eyes close and so quickly the wound that had barely began to heal is ripped apart, bringing tears to my gaze.
“This is one I cannot lose so I am sorry, but I cannot fight in your war for I have my own battle to attend.” He bows at the waist, a gesture long since removed from tradition but one ingrained into him thousands of years prior when he was born as one of the first kings of men.
I slap his shoulder. “Do what you must. As you have said, times are changing. Who knows what you can do what couldn’t be done when this all began? Perhaps I will take the lead myself. I must get the Prophets ready. It seems Adam has already gotten a head start.”
His alertness bothers me. Dane straightens out of my reach looking down at me. “What do you mean?”
“Adam has contacted the leader of the prophets. A boy named Sable in New York. Adam forces my hand to act when all I wish to do is stay stagnant.” I laugh lovingly. Adam wants the Prophets to begin their regime. I guess I cannot protest any longer.
“Who protects him?” He wonders oddly.
I vaguely think on it, “Well, no one yet. His Soul isn’t whole. He’s still--”
Dane dashes for the door, “This will be my gift for God.”
I can’t comprehend Dane’s quick disappearance and I don’t think on it long. It’s time I get moving. I have five other Prophets to prepare and a war to manage. I am not in this alone and that is what I will cling to. Though Dane is going to be absent I will find comfort in the Arch Family and the many other Angels willing to partake in this grand adventure. It will be unlike any other war God or Lucius has yet seen.